„My advice is basically very short: use search engines that make their source code public. Because the others have ‘something to hide’.“
Wolfgang Sander-Beuermann, Computer Scientist and Founder Metager/SUMA e.V. about the advantages of open source for internet search
Interview: Christine Plote
osf: Wolfgang, what is your tip for a better, safer internet search?
WSB: “My advice is basically very short: use search engines that make their source code public. Because the others have ‘something to hide’. De facto, there are (to my knowledge) currently only 3 search engines that have nothing to hide: searx.org, yacy.net, metager.de. I hope to see more search engines soon, which will then be based not only on open source code, but also on an open webindex, as promoted by the Open Search Foundation.”
Why is #opensource so imporatant?
“Only if the source code is public I can learn what the search engine stores about me and, above all, how its results are generated.”
Can you give a few examples?
“If the source code is publicly available, I can find out exactly what the search engine stores about me and, above all, I can check it. For example, does the search engine store key data that can be used to clearly identify my PC (IP address, screen number, fonts and font sizes…)? Does it store which search words I enter + the results I click on? Does it compile and store a profile from information about me or my PC? And does the search engine use that profile in further searches of me?”
What do you mean by ‘being able to look up how and in what order the search engine displays its results’?
“The search engine has to decide which results it will show me at the top and which at the bottom. There can be many criteria for this. For example, I want to know whether it hides results and doesn’t show them at all. Or how it determines the order (the “ranking”) of the results. Or whether and why it shows some results or groups of results preferentially (on top, in first place)? All this is crucial to be able to assess the results of a search engine.”
But most of us can’t even look into such a source code, let alone analyse or understand it. What good does it do me then?
“Even if I can’t recognise and judge these points myself, because I don’t know anything about programming, I know: The internet is big enough so that there are ALWAYS people who take a close look at EVERY open source programme (=source-open, readable for everyone) and publish their results on the internet.”
More about Wolfgang Sander-Beuermann: ➡️ Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Sander-Beuermann
Computer Scientist and Founder Metager/SUMA e.V