Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Search Engines & Indexes

Effective searches & privacy

Search Engines | Indexes | Search Engine Choice
Effective Searches | Privacy Issues

A laptop computer sits on top of a table with the Google search page displayed on the screen.

Helping You to Find it on the Web

Search engines evolved to help you locate information found within the millions and millions of websites, blogs, social media and other Internet resources.

Search Engines




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Indexes & databases

Use one of the following listings for information:


The rise in concerns about privacy are having an effect on what is available for free. You might find it easier to simply search for the phone number in your favourite search engine.

Phone Numbers


People Search

Watch for fees when using these services.



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Choosing a Search Engine

The search engine you use can affect the search results you see. Search results may be affected (or “personalized”) by search engine algorithms, the browser you use, your browsing history, your search history and many other factors.

The business models of so many online services, including many search engines, is based upon the widespread collection of personal data.

Google Search

Google is now a monopoly, so powerful that no business can afford to ignore its influence.

Google is the world's most popular search engine. In fact, Google has 4.3 billion users worldwide meaning the platform receives roughly 92.2% of all search traffic online.

Threats Your Privacy

Google effectiveness as a search engine has come as a cost to your privacy.

Google is the epitome of Big Tech, with their tentacles in everything, compiling detailed profiles about everyone, and making billions of dollars auctioning off access to your attention, for what? Creepy ads that follow you around?

Because the currency of the Web is metadata, the collection of this data can affect your privacy as well as the accuracy of your search.

Google knows more about every digitally active citizen than George Orwell dared to imagine in his wildest dreams in 1984.


Google is the world's most powerful bank — but dealing only in behavioral currency. Nobody capitalizes on their knowledge about us as effectively as Google. This is impressive and dangerous.
Mathias Döpfners

Bloated & Overmonetized

Some experts have begun to question Google's effectiveness, particularly with health and recipe searches. There seems to be more emphasis on sales than information. Google has been accused of redirecting traffic to favoured online shopping sites in Europe.

Unlike its streamlined, efficient former self, Google Search is now bloated and overmonetized.


It's harder now to find answers that feel authoritative or uncompromised; a search for healthy toddler snacks is overloaded with sponsored product placement, prompts to engage with "more questions" (How do you fill a hungry toddler? "Meat and Seafood. Bring on the meat!"), and endless, keyword-engorged content.


Using Google once felt like magic, and now it's more like rifling through junk mail, dodging scams and generic mailers.
The Atlantic

Search “Snippets” Perpetuate Misinformation

The emergence of snippets at the top of Google searches which provide a brief (if sometimes misleading) quote is more like fact checking than providing sources for someone to learn for themselves.

Google's latest desire to answer our questions for us, rather than requiring us to click on the returns and find the answers for ourselves, is not particularly problematic if what you're seeking is a straightforward fact like how many ounces make up a gallon.


The problem is, many rely on search engines to seek out information about more convoluted topics. And, as my research reveals, this shift can lead to incorrect returns that often disrupt democratic participation, confirm unsubstantiated claims, and are easily manipulatable by people looking to spread falsehoods.

Startpage's approach using a quick quote from Wikipedia is a better solution given the community-based fact-checking used by that online encyclopedia.

Privacy-based Search Engines

I strongly recommend a search engine that respects your privacy. Because search requests are not logged, there is no way a court order or hacking can reveal your search history.

Tracking Searches Erodes Privacy

Because search engines like Google track and record every search you make, the information collected and how it is used needs to be as important a consideration as the accuracy of the data.

Search results need to be accurate but if your privacy is compromised, you have paid too high a price.

Search Engines that Respect Privacy

Learn more about each of these privacy-protecting search engines and how they protect your privacy:

Startpage offers you Web search results from Google in complete privacy!.

Startpage is the world's most private search engine, offering you best-in-class search results without fear of having to surrender your search information or other personal data.

Make StartPage Default

I recommend making your default search engine. The methods vary by browser. There is a Firefox addon.

Learning More

Learn more about Startpage on these YouTube videos:


DuckDuckGoPrivacy Simplified — is a search engine that does not collect or share personal information. Why this is important.

We have everything you've come to expect in an online search experience (images, maps, answers, etc.), and because there's no search history on DuckDuckGo, you escape the filter bubble of manipulated results.
It's actually a big myth that search engines need to track your personal search history to make money or deliver quality search results.


Almost all of the money search engines make (including Google) is based on the keywords you type in, without knowing anything about you, including your search history or the seemingly endless amounts of additional data points they have collected about registered and non-registered users alike.


In fact, search advertisers buy search ads by bidding on keywords, not people…. This keyword-based advertising is our primary business model.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg

Microsoft Partnership Weakens DuckDuckGo

Apparently, Microsoft has a special deal with DuckDuckGo:

DuckDuckGo, the self-styled “internet privacy company” — which, for years, has built a brand around a claim of non-tracking web search and, more recently, launched its own ‘private’ browser with built-in tracker blocking — has found itself in hot water after a researcher found hidden limits on its tracking protection that create a carve-out for certain advertising data requests by its search syndication partner, Microsoft.

Ghostery Glow

Our mission is to augment the browsing experience to make the web transparent, fast and private for everyone.

Ghostery Glow is a privacy-focused search engine that doesn't log your search history but does provide insights into the trackers you'll encounter on the web pages search results will send you to.

Ghostery Glow comes in both a paid version (ad-free) and a free version as well as built into the Ghostery Dawn browser.

Ads in a Privacy Browser?

Someone has to pay the bills and advertising is a transparent alternative to sneakily collecting personal data for resale.

Ghostery Glow's ads are in context with relevant search results and are NOT personalized.

Learning More

Learn more about Ghostery Glow and the Ghostery series of privacy projects:

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Effective Searches

You want your searches to be effective.

The more precise your search, the more likely you'll find what you're looking for.

Be Precise

For example, when searching for cats, you could be searching for

Try specifying “Cats the movie” or “Cats the musical” or “Persian cats” as search terms.

Avoid Malicious Searches

Sophos recommends these steps to avoid malicious search results:

Using Advanced Searches

Simple searches provide you with the quickest result, but advanced searches can provide more accurate results.

Each search engine has information on how to refine your search.

Watch for Spelling Errors

Both the searcher and the site can misspell words, names and titles.

Variations can also be used by malicious sites to mislead you.

Search suggestions offer alternatives.

Reverse Image Searches

One very useful tool is a reverse image search. This can be used to verify ownership of an image as well as to locate content being used without permission.

However, the process varies by browser and device. Google is probably your best choice.

Organic or Artificial?

Organic search results are what people are really looking for when they enter specific search terms.

Google's reputation was built by providing accurate organic search results.

Sponsored results may be marked differently, but not always.

The link sponsors have paid the search engine for high positioning.

Have you noticed Google search results getting worse? You're not alone. For many Google searches, most of the results on the first page are either ads or Google pushing their own services. It can be even worse on mobile.

Scammers pay to place fake sites high on the search results.

Overriding Organic Results

Sponsored results skew the search and seldom provides anything useful or trustworthy.

Most are designed to take you away from your intended search results.

Malware in Search Results

The first Google search result often leads to a virus. Why is only Google affected?

It's unacceptable that a handful of hackers can ever get Google to display malware in the top 10 results, much less the No. 1 result, on any type of search. Stop using Google.
Brian Livingston

Computer-related Searches

When searching for computer software and hardware information (especially drivers), choose only the original vendor where possible.

Windows Searches Not Private

Microsoft Windows 10 uses Bing for ALL searches, including those for your own files on your computer. This presents a serious privacy issue.

Fake Downloads

Unscrupulous software repositories have misleading “download” links that have nothing to do with the software you searched for. These point to malware or software containing PUPs.

Try instead. It is a software download site without ads, misleading links or annoyance and 100% supported by donations.

Use Only Vendor-supplied Drivers

Unless drivers are provided by your computer's manufacturer and are designed for your specific hardware, they can corrupt your computer.

Update Software

Your computer's vendor may provide update software designed for your computer. This is the only safe option.

Avoid Driver Update Software

Generic “driver update” software is not recommended.

These can load potentially-unwanted programs (PUPs) or malware.

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Privacy Issues

Most search engines log your search terms and IP address.

This marketable information is about you and your location.

Many search engines track your browsing behavior and then use this data to manipulate your search results based on your past searches.


For instance, one study found that airlines may increase prices if you keep searching for the same flight on a non-private web browser.

This information can be sold or used for purposes that have nothing to do with your search.

Search Privacy

Search engines that protect your privacy include Startpage, DuckDuckGo and Ghostery Glow.

Learn how you can protect your privacy by using a search engine that respects privacy.

Default Search Engine

Choose a default search engine that doesn't sell your privacy as payment for search results.

While browsers come with a default search choice, most search engines will tell you how to make their site the default for your browser.

Microsoft Edge made this difficult by requiring you to load your chosen alternative search engine before it would allow you to add it. Microsoft Bing cannot be removed.

Email Sniffing

The major search engines also offer free webmail services which could be mined for “targeted advertising” or be used to affect search results.

This information is valuable and is changing the way the Internet works — and not necessarily for the better.

Misleading Links or Landing Pages

Some search engines provide “sponsored” results where the site own has paid for top billing. I recommend that you never click on these links.

Too often these links have nothing to do with your search criteria and are designed to take you away from legitimate vendors.

Many are scams or phishing attempts.

Filter Bubbles

Many search engines now alter search results based on many factors:

Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at -- everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located -- that it uses to personally tailor your query results.


Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore.
Eli Pariser

You may not get the results you're looking for because of these “personalized” searches.

No Alternate Points of View

One of the factors that allows fake news is the lack of alternative points of view.

One might think these searches would turn up a variety of perspectives, including at least a few compelling counterarguments.


One would be wrong.

Social media sites use algorithms that make it harder to determine facts from fiction and have been flagged as causing inequality based upon racial or other bias.

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence:


We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview.


[T]his will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.
Eli Pariser

Scams and Identity Theft

Identity theft is easier than ever because people post too much information about themselves on social media and don't understand privacy nor value it.

Search Engines Interlinked

Bruce Clay's Search Engine Relationship Chart® shows how the various search engines are interlinked (PDF version).

Bing Used for Desktop Searches

Microsoft also sends all your computer's Windows 10 search requests to Bing.

This lightens the load on your computer but potentially provides a lot of information to Microsoft about what is on your computer and your interests.

Multi-Search Software

Copernic Agent is Windows commercial software that requires installation, but searches multiple search engines simultaneously.

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Updated: June 7, 2024