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News stories exposing the shady practices of Facebook and Google, and public outcry against same, seem to grow more numerous every day.
The web audience is beginning to come to the realization that maybe handing over all our personal data and the keys to our Internet experience to two huge mega-corporations wasn’t the best idea.
While laws in the western world are scrambling to keep up, users are looking for their own defenses.
But first, let’s back up and ask: What are Facebook and Google doing that’s so wrong?
At the behest of various countries in the world, certain stories, websites, or topics are getting stripped from search engine results and news feeds. Since any country can make the demand “doesn’t show what we don’t want people to see or we’ll block your crawler from our country,” it’s too easy to strong-arm Internet companies into forcing us all to live by the rules of the most oppressive regimes in the world.
Both Facebook and Google have the chief interest in selling your attention to advertisers. To do this, they track your usage every time you do anything. They save what links you click, what you search for, who you talk to, and many other data points to build a data profile about you, which is then sold to marketers.
Over time, Facebook and Google start deciding for you what you “want” to see – or actually, what to show you in the hopes of making the most money off the referral commission when you go to buy something. This amounts to a filter bubble, closing you into an information firewall where you’re eventually not allowed to see certain information just because it’s not profitable for you to see it.
Breaking free of this corporate control over your online life is liberating, even if you only visit outside the borders of the two most controlling websites online once in a while. Here are a few alternative sites to try out which respect you as a person more than a data pool:
Hot is an example of the room we have left to explore on the search engine frontier. It serves adult-oriented web matches – exclusively. It’s a search engine that doesn’t save your user data and respects your privacy, giving you unfiltered results to whatever was on your kinky mind. There’s no point in pretending that this isn’t what a lot of web users search for anyway, and if there was ever a time when you don’t want some nosy marketer shoulder-surfing your queries, this is it.
Another original twist on search engines, Gigablast is perhaps the world’s first open-source, transparent search engine. There’s no question of what Gigablast is up to because you can read every line of its source code in C and C++ under its Apache v2.0 license. Gigablast was founded by a former Infoseek employee, and also respects user privacy by not sniffing data or filtering results.
HotBot is a curiosity on the web, a pre-Google search engine from the Jurassic web which has not only survived into the modern-day but evolved and adapted with the times. HotBot bills itself as a safer alternative to web searching and hosts a security blog on the side that is an education in itself. HotBot looks back to the simpler, less-monetized days of the web while keeping up with the best side of modern improvements.
With the tagline of “What haven’t you found?”, Million Short has a fun gimmick: It will strip away the first or last thousand, million, or however many most popular hits for a given query. This gets you right to the lesser-known websites, minority opinions, small-time blogs, niche forums, and the deep web in general. Perfect for specialized topics or finding out what the smaller voices on the web have to say for a change.
With a frisky, fresh, and user-friendly appeal, DuckDuckGo has maneuvered itself to the forefront of the user privacy debate through a stalwart commitment to user privacy. It is based on gathering results from the other top search engines, but delivering the results stripped of data-mining and filtering. This feisty engine has even eschewed international censorship, showing you every result whether the nannies of the web like that or not.