DuckDuckGo: What You Should Know About Google Search’s Private Rivals
Most of us have experienced the horrible part of online tracking. You know, looking for a pair of shoes and then seeing ads for those exact shoes that follow you to the very end of the internet. Sometimes, you want a little privacy in your online experience. Enter DuckDuckGo: a search engine that promises to keep your search activity anonymous and not track online.
There are other private browsers, such as Brave, which blocks trackers and third-party cookies that track your activity as you search the web. But DuckDuckGo-which has increasingly invested in an advertising campaign-sees itself as a direct competitor to Google Search, complete with a mobile app and extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and other browsers.
After major incidents such as Cambridge Analytica scandalpeople have become more aware of how much personal information is available to tech companies and advertisers-and are opting out to be tracked when they can, as Apple’s iOS 14.5 allows you to do. While it doesn’t track users, the DuckDuckGo app has been downloaded more than 50 million times in the last year alone-more than any other year combined since its launch 13 years ago.
Here’s what you need to know about DuckDuckGo and how it works to keep your searches more secure.
What is DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo is a search engine that offers a mobile browser app and a desktop extension, both of which aim to allow you to browse the internet without companies devouring your personal data. It promises to keep your searches private, anonymous and offers a built-in tracker blocking, making it harder for the sites you visit to collect information about you.
Read more: Best VPN of 2021
How does DuckDuckGo work?
For starters, DuckDuckGo does not track searches made through its browser extension or mobile app. Other browsers, including Chrome, allow you to use private or incognito windows that do not track your search history, but their default windows. (That’s the basis of every “embarrassing search history“joke.) Instead of making you navigate to a different version of its app, DuckDuckGo never tracks your search history.
Searches made through DuckDuckGo automatically connect you to encrypted versions of websites whenever possible, making it harder for anyone else to see what you’re viewing online. This is another scenario where the same options (encrypted and unencrypted) exist in other search engines, but the default is not always the privacy-friendly option. DuckDuckGo saves you the extra steps of manually navigating over encrypted connections.
DuckDuckGo was criticized in May when researchers discovered that some Microsoft tracking scripts were bundled with DuckDuckGo’s Bing-based search results. Having Microsoft followers seems to fly in the face of the search engine’s privacy commitment. However, DuckDuckGo has previously disclosed its partnership with Microsoft, which powers the DuckDuckGo search engine, including what information is tracked when you click on ads from Microsoft. And DuckDuckGo remains at the forefront of other popular privacy options when it comes to blocking tracking data.
DuckDuckGo also actively blocks external monitors from tracking you online. For a more detailed explanation of DuckDuckGo’s privacy features, check out the DuckDuckGo blog.
How is DuckDuckGo different from Google Search? What about Incognito mode and private browsing?
DuckDuckGo essentially uses the opposite approach compared to other large technology companies like Google and Facebook, which have traditionally made money through targeting ads based on your browsing history and personal data. Although Google says it will stop this practice, the platform still collects a ton of data about you, including your location and search activity – yes, even in incognito mode.
Incognito mode simply deletes the information associated with your browsing session from your computer: your history, cookies and any information you enter in the fields. Interestingly, that is only done after you end your session by closing all your tabs. So if you leave your incognito tabs open for several hours or days at a time, that information will still generate. And no matter what happens, Google can save your searches-and companies, internet service providers and governments can still track you on the internet, even if you’re using incognito mode.
DuckDuckGo is different because it doesn’t store your browsing data, and it blocks trackers as you browse.
If it doesn’t target ads, how does DuckDuckGo make money?
DuckDuckGo still makes money from advertising-it doesn’t just use targeted ads. The search engine shows you ads based on the keywords you search for, which are not connected to your personal data such as your browsing or purchase history. Generally, you’ll only see ads for whatever you’re currently looking for, not the unique product your friend sent you a link to last week that you can’t avoid.
How do I use DuckDuckGo?
On mobile devices, just open your app store and search for “DuckDuckGo.” You will be able to download the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser app and use it the same way you would use Chrome or Safari. In the center at the bottom of your app, you’ll see a fire icon, which you can press at any time to close all your tabs and clear all personal data.
On the desktop, go to duckduckgo.com, where you’ll see a button to add DuckDuckGo to your browser. In Chrome, you’ll be directed to the Chrome webstore page to download the extension for free. In Safari, you’ll be taught how to set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine or manually activate search using DuckDuckGo.
For more about online privacy, see browser privacy settings you should change now, how to prevent your iPhone apps from tracking youat the best password managers of 2021.