In the IT and tech world, not all hardware is equal, and the same goes for software. Especially in today’s digital marketplace, where the emphasis on digitalization is so present, there is so much technology available that choosing anything from a smartphone to antivirus software means browsing through an endless array of options on both ends.
The technology markets are the most diversified markets in the world. When we translate these facts to internet browsing services, things get even more complicated. This is because there is enormous demand going into the 2020s for cybersecurity (internet security) solutions and a big preference shift to privacy-oriented options. For example, the marketplace is now full of new email and messaging services promising better privacy, as well as alternative search engines that are taking customers away from industry giant Google. It is interesting to consider that such movements in the industry were unthinkable only a few years ago.
As of February 2021, according to statistics concerning global market share of search engines, Google is still by far and away the market share leader taking up almost 90% as the undisputed leader. Not only that, but Google has held the vast majority of the market share for the last ten years. Other well-known search engines such Yahoo, Bing and some others take up the tiny remaining piece of the pie.
When it comes to search engines – something we could not do without – choosing a search engine that protects your privacy is one of the top trends for internet users today. As internet users become more and more aware of the myriad privacy issues around using the internet, they will find that new options have cropped up. As people become more educated about online privacy, the need to break away from the usual is high. Internet users today are looking for privacy, which means the demand for privacy-oriented services is peaking. This means that interest in specialized privacy software such as; email services, messaging services and web browsers is an emerging economy. Not only is interest peaking for these services, but the need for anonymization cybersecurity tools such as VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks is becoming common knowledge and awareness of this is trickling down even into the commercial, where we see VPNs even sponsoring popular YouTube channels.
People Do Not Trust The Internet Like They Used to
Since our entering into the pandemic era, about 40% of consumers believe that their government should protect them from cybercrime increase. Research also shows that 86% of the US population have consciously applied steps to remove their digital footprint. Furthermore, almost 80% of the US population distrust internet companies nowadays and since 2018, there has been over 50% of an increase in online privacy concerns. Unfortunately, the world is not at a satisfactory level when it comes to online privacy rights at the moment, as there is no unified privacy law. Stringent privacy laws are implemented in first-world countries/unions such as the US and EU (the EU being the most strict), but such laws hardly exist in third-world or developing countries.
Let’s give a concrete example from someone who knows what they are talking about. Ben Wizner, US legal adviser and civil liberties advocate describes today’s privacy concerns in a nutshell -stating that “It is now both technologically and financially feasible for corporations and governments to collect and store records of almost all of our activities, records that never would have existed in the past”. Wizner agrees with the fact that technology is an incredible convenience, but that this convenience should not “come at the cost of giving up our privacy wholesale”.
What is Online Privacy?
Following privacy and surveillance scandals in the world in the earlier portion of the 2010s, as well as the fact that major social media platforms are leaking information, the concept of online privacy is something very important for internet users nowadays. Online privacy means exactly that, user privacy. It defines whether the sensitive information billions of people are sharing with the internet is being manipulated, kept and/or sold without their consent. More specifically, this delves into the search for the peace of mind about what happens to the data you entrust with the internet.
Why Should You Consider Using An Alternative Search Engine?
Today, we are so habituated with the idea of Google, the dominant internet force and industry giant, that most of us will automatically search with Google without giving any thought to it. Whether it is a simple textual search, or an image search, Google trumps all. However, is this objectively the truth? Much less of us know that there are indeed alternatives to Google’s search engine, that offer just as much in terms of content, but with a highly superior approach to user privacy. Google’s search engine will track your browsing, your searches, your internet behavior and much more which will later be stored and most probably shared with other data gathering companies -which means you have no control or knowledge over where your data is going and what is going to be done with it.
What Are The Alternatives to Google Today?
So, you have decided to unstick yourself from old habits (which do die hard), and try an alternative search engine that offers superior privacy, no tracking or storing data, with the same quality of search results? Give these a whirl;
- DuckDuckGo (The privacy default)
- Ecosia (The eco search engine)
- Qwant (states that they have no interest in who uses the search engine)
- Search Encrypt (Differentiate themselves with encryption)
- StartPage (Completely anonymous and store zero browsing data)
Privacy-oriented search engines have seen a large uptick in growth over the past few years, and as we have seen above, with good reason. All of the search engines in the above list were created with privacy in mind, which means that they will leave as little a trail as possible on the internet, will refrain from referring you to other sites, storing your browsing history and tracking you. Some of these will encrypt your searches with AES-256 security, some have even stated publicly that they are direct competitors to Google (which is a good sign for privacy). Some are even touted as being carbon neutral! All in all, it is great to finally see a move towards privacy awareness, and basically the protection of your rights as an internet user being put to the table.
Gus Hosein, head of Privacy International has had the following insight to share about the implications of privacy issues; “My worry is that we’ll become desensitized and we’ll become quite resigned to the fact that, Yeah, our data is harvested, and, yeah, I guess it is not secure, and, yeah, I guess any criminal who wanted to can get access to it”. He ends with, “The defence of privacy will be the saviour of the future, essentially”.