Q: Which is the best private search engine, Startpage or DuckDuckGo?
A: Search engines are an essential navigation tool for the endless number of websites on the Internet, which is the main reason Google has become one of the titans of technology.
Google’s search engine is considered the most powerful, but the trade-off is that you forgo privacy with their extensive tracking technologies.
If you want to avoid tracking while still getting great search results, a private search engine does just that.
Bypass tracking can be especially useful when sharing a computer with someone you are looking for, as what you are looking for will not suddenly appear in advertisements on the Internet.
It can also reduce biased results that might show up in search based on all of your past activity.
Startpage and DuckDuckGo offer similar private web search services in very different ways.
Anonymized search results
The way both services work is that they submit your requests to their associated search engines anonymously, which eliminates personal tracking but still delivers search results.
Startpage uses Google search, and DuckDuckGo primarily uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine to generate its results, so if you have a current preference this may help you make up your mind.
Associated advertising networks
One of the ways these free tools pay the bills is by showing ads in your search results – Startpage uses Google’s ad network and DuckDuckGo uses Microsoft’s ad network.
The ads shown in your results are based only on what you searched for at that time and not on anything you have searched for in the past.
DuckDuckGo allows you to opt out of ads completely by going to the “All settings” page, but keep in mind that this is how they can provide you with this free service.
Ads are clearly labeled in both search tools, so you can easily identify them against actual search results.
Slight tracking differences
There is a slight difference in the way these tools handle your search queries because DuckDuckGo logs search queries without connecting them to you with the goal of improving results and tracking overall trends. Startpage doesn’t collect anything at all, so from a privacy standpoint, it gets a slightly better rating.
Where they are based
Startpage is based in the Netherlands and is subject to EU privacy laws, which are much more restrictive and focus on user control over their own data. DuckDuckGo is based in the US, but is somewhat exposed to EU data restrictions when using an EU-based server to generate results.
This shouldn’t be a reason to use one over the other, as neither of them collect anything user-identifiable, this is where the difference between the rules is. ‘The EU really comes into play.