Posted by: patenttranslator | August 14, 2013

After About Two Decades of Searching Mostly with Google I Am Switching to a Different Search Engine

“Those who would trade liberty for some temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”

Benjamin Franklin

I remember that the first time when I was really impressed by a search engine was when I was translating a long protocol from Japanese for pharmaceutical tests for a new medication as I was trying to figure what would be the name in English of a medication that was transcribed in Japanese. I put my guestimated spelling into a search engine, and …. voilà, I got back the actual spelling in English because I was only about a letter or two off the correct name of that particular medication.

The year was 1996, I think. Which would mean that for about the first 10 years of my translating career I somehow got by without any search engine, and without machine translation and CATs too, of course. The smart search engine that impressed me so much in that particular instance was Google, although back then I was also trying various different ones with interesting names like Alta Vista and Northern Lights which no longer exist if I am not mistaken. Pretty soon, Google was it not only for me, but for a lot of my friends and colleagues as well. I remember that for instance another translator’s screen saver twenty years ago in his tiny condo in San Francisco across from Golden Gate Park was already the Google search page.

The little search field that could then seared its presence seemingly permanently into the lives of hundreds of millions of people. For about 17 years, Google was also my default search engine. Namely up until a few months ago, when even before the revelations of Edward Snowden about the completely illegal and criminal spying of the NSA on hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of anything (see the text of Fourth Amendment to US Constitution here), I decided to switch to a different engine, an engine that does not collect any information about its users because it generates revenues only from ads that are based on keywords.


Originally I switched to DuckDuckGo mostly because I found it really annoying and creepy when garish advertisements about any product or service that I happened to Google started jumping at me and were incessantly chasing me on every newspaper and blog site that I was reading for days if not weeks. At the same time I also stopped using my Google mail account because I realized that I don’t really want Google or anybody else to have that much information about me stored so conveniently in one place.

DuckDuckGo is one of several companies that says that it does not to collect any personally identifiable data about its users. I was using it as my default engine for several months, and I still use it sometime because it works very well. But after Edward Snowden’s revelations, I started using Ixquick as my default search engine because unlike DuckDuckGo, it is based in Holland rather than in the United States. I could be wrong but I am assuming that it would be much more difficult, even in these post-constitutional and post-legal times when US agencies are spying on everybody and their grandmother, to force a company located outside United States to hand over all user information.

Apparently, companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, as well as Apple, have been doing it routinely for years.

There is no exception in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution for metadata, or for the magic T-word. Unlike for instance the second amendment, which ties the right of people to bear arms to something called “well regulated militia”, this amendment is very straightforward and very clear.


The purpose of the Constitution is to protect citizens from an abusive government. We, the citizens, really have no representative government any more, as it only represents the interests of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, and Apple, and we are just the dupes who are marched every two years to the voting booth to cast our vote for whoever we think is the lesser of the two evils this time around. At this point, I can’t even tell which of the two evils is lesser. There does not seem to be any difference between them.

But although we have so little power over our government which has so much power over us, we do have power over the seemingly omnipotent corporations which control the government through its lobbyists and their generous contributions to our politicians, because most of the time, we can still go shopping somewhere else.

I am obviously not an intensely private person, as I think nothing of pouring my heart out on my blog at least twice a week. But I do want to have a modicum of privacy back in my life and in my children’s life. I don’t want Big Brother to spy on everything I do online. And unless Google changes the extremely intrusive practices of its business model, I will not set my default search engine back to Google again.


  1. Wow, Steve, you are talking about ideals!

    “There is no exception in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution for metadata, or for the magic T-word. Unlike for instance the second amendment, which ties the right of people to bear arms to something called ‘well regulated militia’, this amendment is very straightforward and very clear.”

    Germans say, “Papier ist geduldig.” Some would translate literally as “paper is patient” while some would translate literarily as “paper doesn’t blush.” Both do not convey the same meaning as a German native would understand the original that may be a good reason why the Second Amendment is in a lot of cases more effective than the Fourth Amendment.

    There is no right which is given upon, unless one asserts it. In particular, there are often times when it applies “might is right.”

    Google wasn’t evil at all, like DuckDuckGo and Ixquick are. Roman Empire wasn’t too bad, either. Things change because of people. That’s all.


  2. I am not sure what you mean by DuckDuckGo and Ixquick being evil.

    But talking about the Roman Empire, they also had the saying “pecunia non olet”, which means “money does not stink”.

    This explains a lot of evil that we have witnessed. But to me it also means that things can only change if you hit them where it counts, namely in their wallet, by talking business away from them.


  3. Well, the traffic data generated by your search engine will anyway get through US networks and routers, can (will) be analyzed and filtered downstream. “Meta” also refers to this data.
    As per the bad US companies passing the data they collect from users thus becoming theirs, they could even say “No”, and have their right to say no supported in a court by one of the many attorneys they pay.
    Most of these companies flood their lucky business partners with money, and you can’t actually know for sure the true identity of those who fund DuckDuckGo or Ixquick or…
    Is Ixquick’s search algorythm public?
    IMVHO, most of these companies (e.g. Amazon, one for all) are more blameful for their tax conduct, even, when not mostly, abroad.
    Many many people all over the world would pay to be hired by one of those evil companies.
    What’s changed from the times of the “evil empire” speech? Analyzing metadata is just more modern than tapping conversations, maybe not cheaper, or faster, or easier.
    I think I will keep using Google, at least as long as it keeps proving more efficient, and remains as free.
    Thank you anyway for quoting Suetonius. Maybe we could turn back to Latin for our conversation. As long as there are so many people who can’t handle it… Ooops, it is spoken in the Vatican, just another secret-loving “country”.


  4. “Maybe we could turn back to Latin for our conversation.”

    I would enjoy that, although I would have to take a refresher course in Latin grammar. When I was 18 I had a penpal (there was such a thing back then) in Italy and the first letter I wrote to her was in Latin.

    But instead of trying to talk to each other in dead languages, I think that we should call a spade a spade and demand the the criminals who have been breaking the law for years now be made accountable for their actions.


  5. First things first (and better late than never): I’m really glad Lucy is back.

    Special thanks for your latest posts about using alternatives to the big names which apparently have all grown big enough to become some sort of Big Brother variation. Please keep us posted on how things go if you can and don’t mind sharing.

    You may be David fighting Goliath but there are many people 100% behind you – even if they’re keeping a safe distance 😉

    If things get rough, come straight to Portugal: it’s a small country but no one will ever find you behind the huge amount of red tape. Not even the ones in charge of the red tape.


  6. “If things get rough, come straight to Portugal: it’s a small country but no one will ever find you behind the huge amount of red tape. Not even the ones in charge of the red tape.”

    Thank you for your invitation and I will keep it in mind, Graça, although I am hoping that it will not come to that.

    But given how much red tape you have there, will they let me bring Lucy with me, or are pitbulls illegal there as they are in North Dakota?


  7. Whether or not Lucy would be allowed entry in the country would depend entirely on the person checking your visa (and perhaps his/her immediate supervisor). They may even allow Lucy to stay and send you back home.

    There’s been a lot of controversy about ‘dangerous’ dogs due to several cases of small children being attacked in the last years but I think any actual law is still being discussed.

    The problem is not with the animals but with the people handling them. And the people handling the laws. Or not handling any of them.

    In Portuguese we say ‘guilt always dies an old spinster’ (i.e. no one wants to take responsibility) and that gives way to all sorts of surreal situations. So we may become like North Dakota soon.


  8. “So we may become like North Dakota soon.”

    OK. I’ll let Lucy know that things are almost as bad, at least when it comes to dealing with dogs, who are completely innocent unlike perhaps the people who keep these dogs, in Portugal as in North Dakota.


  9. I’ve been using Ixquick as my default search engine for the last couple of months. However, it is awfully slow and not always effective finding the technical terminology I’m looking for. So I find myself having to link back to Google more than I would like — particularly when I need to find something in a hurry.

    Do you suppose Ixquick will get more efficient as more people use it, or does the fact that it does not save our searches hamper its ability to optimize search results by ranking them according to how many people have accessed those pages?


  10. @ Parisblue

    I agree, Google often provides better results, especially when it comes to highly technical queries than Ixquick, and I sometimes go back to Google for this reason, but usually not when the search has something to do with me personally.

    You may also want to try which is supposed to be an anonymized summary of Google searches.


  11. Do you find you get the same quality results from startpage et al? I’ve been using startpage since Prism became public, and while I appreciate the anonymous searches I’m sometimes forced to return to google to get any hits. This seems to often be the case with names of chemicals or other scientific terms.

    I believe they have some sort of automatic filter built in to startpage: try searching some “adult” terms. Agreed, this may not affect professional use directly but if they will filter some search terms, how do we know which searches aren’t filtered?

    I also used to get a perverse pleasure from sticking it to the man with all of the search term “noise” generated by my work that has nothing to do with me as a private individual. As far as google was concerned I was an avid sailor who cruised the French coastline glugging wine and artificially inseminating pigs 😉

    Last but not least, this website shows you how to “prism-break”.


  12. @Traductologist

    I have not used startpage much, I just know that it exists. I normally use Ixquick and if I can’t find what I am looking for I go to Google for technical terms. But if it is something of somewhat personal character, I may try several alternatives but not Google.

    As parisblues commented, Ixquick is slow, it takes a couple of seconds at least before the results load, while Google is lightning-quick. But sometime I find on other search engines, including Ixquick, what I can’t find on Google.

    Thanks for the link to prism-break. I bookmarked metager, which looks interesting. When I entered on metager a keyword that new clients who end up on my website often use, my site came in the first position. So it must be a betters search engine because on Google it’s usually in position no. 3.

    I too enter misinformation when I am forced to register for something online. On such occasions I am usually a very young female who works for government – in reality I am a pretty old, self-employed male.


  13. I always use this (freely downloadable) meta search tool, which activates several known and less know search engines (anything but Google) : (you can choose among 4 interface languages).

    Copernic Agent Personal (“Copernic”) has several Categories within which you can limit your search (by country, by language, by specialization area,…). You can also choose one default language. I chose French because it’s my target language. Like you, I use it to see if such or such word or expression exists and in what context, etc.

    I never even think of using Google, except Google Pictures (, Google Books ( and also a Google page that allows to search a word or expression within a website: Originally it was to look up legal vocabulary in the Belgian police’s website (polfed-fedpol: federal police).


  14. @Traductologist

    Here is how Startpage is supposed to be different according the information on Startpage:

    “A Unique Combination

    On Startpage the privacy of Ixquick is combined with the Web search results from Google. The combination of these two features is what makes Startpage so special.

    You can continue using the Web results from the world’s most popular search engine but now under the privacy protection of Ixquick, the world’s most private search engine.”

    I have not used it much so far, so I am not sure whether it really works like this.


  15. Cristiana Coblis (@RO_Translation) has just tweeted this: “9 Alternative Search Engines to Improve Discovery” : .


  16. I tried both lxquick and Startpage a while ago. I was attracted, like you, by the privacy aspect. However, I found one major drawback: I frequently use Google to compare the frequency of particular expressions. You can do this simply by putting a search term in quotes (to force Google to search for the exact term as written) and looking at the approximate number of hits. lxquick doesn’t provide an estimated number of hits, and the one provided by Startpage looks very unreliable compared to the straight Google one. I even wrote to Startpage to ask them about this, and they said something about technical difficulties and that they might look into it one day. Shame. I’m back on Google for the time being. Open to any other suggestions…


  17. “Open to any other suggestions…”

    Moi aussi.

    (Nothing to correct in there, I hope).


    • 😉


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