Swisscows is a Switzerland-based private search engine launched in 2014, a project of Hulbee AG, a company based in Egnach, Switzerland. They also pride themselves in respecting users privacy for never collecting or tracking your personal data. They even have a “Swiss Fort Knox” data center for their server and hosting infrastructure.
The search engine is based on semantic data recognition, billing itself as family-friendly site. It uses Artificial intelligence to determine the context of a user’s query which promises to answer your questions with accuracy.
Why choose Swisscows over Google or DuckDuckGo?
Google has amassed a global market share of 87%. With its complex computer algorithms, a dominating online advertising platform, and personalized user experience,
no one serves up better search results than Google. Google might produce the better results but yet it can’t be considered as the best search engine. When comes to Privacy, Google does uses your data and use it for a variety of for-profit plans and fishy surveillance related reasons. They always track your data no matter in which part of world you live. Google main source of income is to sell ads based on your data. Basically, you are the product of the free services they offer world-wide. Google produces ads for every product they offer. Google monitors you and knows exactly where you’ve been, wherever you are, based on the data and information collected. Your digital fingerprints can be found everywhere on the net. These data are sold. Some people believe Google’s search results produce politically biased results. Did you think even if they track your location, the websites you go to, and find out what you like and dislike, what can they even do with that, they probably use it to advertise and recommend stuffs to you, which makes you completely depend on it.
Is it better to switch to a EU-based or a Swiss web search provider rather than using US-based products like Google or DuckDuckGo?
Short answer, if you mean Norway in EU, yes for now. Otherwise Switzerland’s independence from EU is truly a blessing if you ask me. Go with Switzerland like India’s politicians. They love hoarding their cash there. Most of them show least or no trust for any banks in India at all.
Jokes apart, freedom of Press is the marrow of democracy around the globe. A free press is established as fourth pillar of democracy world-wide. Out of the top 5 countries list in 2020 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without borders, all belong to Europe. Switzerland holding a strong 8th position in the aforesaid index. The land of the free, USA is not even in the top 25 if you take a look.
Switzerland was even placed on the U.S. Trade Representative Watch List for “protecting file-sharers and playing host to many pirate sites,” according to a Special 301 Report published in April of 2016.
Switzerland has another benefit, it is not the part of European Union hence it is not required by law to be bound by any of the EU laws and is not answerable to EU authorities by any means. It gives Switzerland ample room to be neutral by all means. Switzerland do not want to deal with US’s attempts like Safe Harbor in 2015 and Privacy Shield recently to transfer data from EU to US with a false promise to protect your personal data even in post Snowden world time and again. These elaborate moves not only wastes precious time of Apex court of Justice in EU and hardworking activists from Austria like Max Schrems but also creates unnecessary legal and political issues for locals. All this energy and resources could be used in betterment of EU in a lot of other ways.
Switzerland is what infamous email provider called Protonmail are there for similar reasons. Even important personality like an American computer scientist and cryptographer Phil Zimmermann creator of PGP, world’s most used email encryption technology has moved his own companies to Switzerland to avoid US government interference in his business.
A Swiss datacenter company like Mount10 is promoting Swiss Fort Knox deep inside and underneath Swiss Alps as Europe’s most secure data center, ideal for protection against big brother.
Vigiswiss, an active trade group of data companies, is actively promoting the country as the “world’s safe haven for data.”
Data privacy in Switzerland is protected by Article 13 of the Swiss Constitution. It is so lucid and easy to read with no sub-clauses.
1 Every person has the right to privacy in their private and family life and in their home, and in relation to their mail and telecommunications.
2 Every person has the right to be protected against the misuse of their personal data.
In Switzerland before a court grants an authority access to your personal data, you will be given adequate time to be heard unlike the case with US, where laws and acts like Earn IT or worse are being framed to give law enforcement unprecedented access in name of prevention of terror and CSAM.
Why use Swisscows?
The main purpose is they NEVER collect your data, NEVER track your data, and respect your privacy. Swisscows have their own servers and do not work with a cloud or third party. They have a data center in the Swiss Alps, The safest bunker in Europe. They have positioned everything geographically outside of EU and US. Swisscows semantic map offers you an interactive search experience. From past 19 years they have been conducting research in analysis and search which provides better search results and consumes less time.
Features of Swisscows
Swisscows also promises the special content whose explicit results are entirely omitted. One unique aspect of Swisscows is that they are passionate about family-friendly content. According toSwisscows “The digital media are indispensable and yet pose a threat and challenge to the not yet formed perceptions of children and adolescents. Even parents and schools are not prepared for it. Due to massive digitization, children have become the biggest Internet consumers.
- We promote moral values.
- We hate violence and pornography.
- We promote digital media education.
Swisscows uses Bing for better web search, but has also built its own index for the German language edition. Swisscows also has shopping content, music content (powered by SoundCloud), and a language translator powered by Yandex.
Plus and Prime
Plus is simply an account that you register with Swisscows. In case you are wondering whether the logging policy or anything changes when you are logged in. Here is the official statement from Swisscows:
No, definitely not! We respond to the needs of the users who asked us to do just that. Even here we will NOT save anything from you. You can even use an incorrect – fake – name for registration.
This is epic, a company suggesting you to use a fake name says a lot about the treatment of personal data and its protection. Plus. as you guessed it right is simply there to remember all your preferences, including country region, homepage settings, themes, weather related options etc that you select therein to your liking.
Swisscows does not know which region the users of our site come from. However, some users need the information that is tied to their country.
Further, this registered account also serves as a single sign-on for current paid features like Prime, VPN and upcoming Mail, Messenger app as per the information on their website.
Swisscows is able to to deliver robust web search without any tracking with help of donations from private donors and business sponsors only. In order to support a web search engine that don’t mine your data and make you a product, there is a Prime subscription that you should get if you can afford it.
It offers pure search without any distractions owing to advertisements and calls for donations. Although in our personal experience we did not find their calls or ads irksome at all. We enjoyed web search without any sort of tracking being done on our keywords. I am not sure but I guess new features would be made available to Prime users first before they are released to general public.
Yearly subscriptions cost as low as 5 CHF a month only.
Business sponsors can advertise their support for Swisscows via banner of their products or company by doing a one-time donation of 1500 CHF only. It would be displayed on top of web search as show on their donation page.
This year, private donors get a nice umbrella for a donation of 150 CHF or more.
Is Swisscows trustworthy?
In terms of privacy, Swisscows is one of the top choices, arguably better than many other private search engines. According to Swisscows “When using Swisscows neither your IP address is recorded nor is the browser you are using (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) is collected. No analyses are made, which operating system our users use (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.); your search are not recorded either. We record absolutely no data from our visitors. The only information we store is the number of search requests entered daily at Swisscows, to measure the total overall traffic on our website and to evaluate a breakdown of this traffic by language and mere overall statistics.
Swisscows completely does away with statistics and analyses on its visitors in order to protect your privacy. Given that we do not collect any information on our visitors, we are also not able to identify your place of residence. Swisscows does not conduct any geo targeting.”
If you are concerned related to VPN then you don’t need to worry about that as well. Swisscows VPN, they absolutely have nothing about the transmitted data such as the browsing history, the destination of the data traffic, the content of the data or preferences when searching. All of these things are not monitored, recorded, logged or stored by them.
They also do not collect logs about the connections, no logs about your IP address, the time stamp of the connection or the duration of the session. Moreover they have no access to the payment information you have provided to them and do not link your payment or other information to any online activity within the VPN of Swisscows VPN. As of now only the browser extensions for Chrome and Mozilla are out. It says on their website that they are working on global expansion of their VPN product across all modern mobile and desktop platforms.
Conclusion – more than a replacement for DuckDuckGo
The danger of the Internet is increasing day by day. Everyone is concerned about their privacy and data to be secured. Swisscows helps us all to make the Internet safer. Google monitors and tracks your complete personal data and influences your life and makes decisions for you. At Google, you are a human puppet and a hot product for sale. Swisscows promises to respect your privacy as they never collect or track your data. They have a decent list of countries you can search as a region, and it does a great job filtering adult content. But yet a couple of things would probably need to improve on its filtering out alcohol, drugs, and tobacco results. Also sometimes, the search results are not always what you desire but still doable. With expansion of paid services and products like Mail, Messenger, VPN, Prime Search etc it could really be a game changer and a strong Swiss competitor to Proton Technologies AG and their products like ProtonMail, ProtonVPN etc.
What I personally like the most about SwissCows is the guts to ask people to pay for web search without tracking. It educates a user about his/her rights and gross violation of privacy by other web giants. It is something that web giants like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google changed years ago. They lured us into a big trap of online services offered for gratis. Had we questioned the basics before using their services, we won’t be hunting for unique products like Swisscows Web Search today. We should start paying for things and not be a product but a user of a product.