Google, Safari, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo. All of these are search engines, but you might not be very familiar with the last one. DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that has gained popularity in recent years, primarily due to its unique practices regarding internet privacy for users. While DuckDuckGo does have privacy policies and practices that are much stricter than its competitors, it might not be as private as you think.
Before we deep dive into DuckDuckGo’s privacy claims and current practices, let’s take a look at the company itself. The free search engine launched over ten years ago, in 2008. The company did not begin with the intent of prioritizing search engine privacy, but in 2010, it decided not to track its users’ search history moving forward. In 2012, they reached a significant milestone of one million searches a day; the very next year, the browser reached three million searches a day.
Now, DuckDuckGo gets around three billion searches every single month. They have expanded from just a search engine to offering a mobile app, as well as several extensions for popular browsers. Over the years, they have updated and improved their interface, algorithm, and compatibility with other browsers. Their mission is to “show the world that protecting privacy is simple.” We will get more into how they do that in the next section.
What Makes DuckDuckGo Different
Additionally, DuckDuckGo doesn’t target its ads based on personal information or search history—it can’t do that since it doesn’t have access to that information. But that doesn’t mean users won’t see paid advertisements. Rather, the ads users see are based on search results, so they will see ads related to whatever phrase they are searching.
The Exception to Their Rule
DuckDuckGo partners with Microsoft to display online advertisements. When a user clicks on a Microsoft-provided ad, Microsoft Advertising accesses their IP address. Furthermore, the browser does not block Microsoft trackers on third-party websites, like LinkedIn. Essentially, this means that users who visit websites with Microsoft trackers do expose their data.
This might seem like a small price to pay for users who are truly concerned with their overall search history and information being tracked. But other users have been frustrated by the seeming lack of transparency from DuckDuckGo in regards to third-party advertising via Microsoft.
As mentioned before, their homepage claims that they don’t store any personal information, ever. This much seems to be true, but the loophole is that third-party trackers accessed through ads might store information. On their About Us page, DuckDuckGo says, “Our mobile browser and desktop extension come with private search and seamless protection from most trackers as you browse” (emphasis added). Though subtle, this sentence does indicate that users may be susceptible to some trackers accessing personal or search-related information.
The Bottom Line
DuckDuckGo offers users a search engine that doesn’t store personal information or search history, but it does not offer complete protection from third-party trackers. If avoiding online tracking as much as possible is important to you, DuckDuckGo is still a solid choice for a search engine. On the other hand, if search engine privacy doesn’t matter to you, you might be better off sticking with popular search engines like Google, simply for ease of use and familiarity.
If privacy is an important factor to you, DuckDuckGo isn’t your only option. Search engines like StartPage and Search Encrypt are other available options that don’t track or store search history.
Cybersecurity Solutions in Winchester, VA
No matter what search engine you use, there are risks when it comes to privacy. The best way to know what you’re agreeing to when using a search engine is to thoroughly read its privacy policies. You can also work with an IT provider to learn and implement the best practices to protect your privacy and data as much as possible, outside the realm of search engines. If you have questions about online privacy and security for yourself, your small business, and your employees, we’d love to talk. Contact us today!