We have always been fans of privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo, and have watched its popularity grow with interest. This growth saw a massive jump following Edward Snowden’s revelations that major all the major traditional search engines were handing over users’ search details to the NSA (and what was not handed over was taken by the NSA anyway.)
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabe Weinberg has now revealed to NBC that,
‘We’ve grown 600 percent since the surveillance revelations started two years ago… we are doing 3 billion searches a year now.’
Unlike Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and so on, DuckDuckGo does not make money out of building up detailed profiles of its users, which it then uses to deliver highly targeted advertising. It instead uses a simple and transparent advertising model, where ads are served up based on keywords entered into the search box. As Weinberg explains,
‘It’s a myth that you need to track people to make money in search. We make money just by keyword advertising. If you type in ‘car’ you get a car ad, it’s really that straight forward.’
DuckDuckGo pulls its search results from ‘about 50 sources’, with Microsoft’s Bing! being the primary one. All searches are anonymous, and no data identifying users is collected. DuckDuckGo’s popularity has been given a boost by Apple, which now allows it to be selected as the default search engine for its iOS8 Safari browser app.
Although some of the code used by DuckDuckGo is open source, the core is proprietary. Combined with fact that DuckDuckGo is based in the United States (Pennsylvania), some might worry that the NSA can monitor searches, whatever DuckDuckGo says. It should be noted, however, that because that no login is required (or asked for) when using DuckDuckGo, using a VPN would thwart any logging of users’ IP addresses, even if such were to happen.
In addition to providing its own anonymous results, users can search other search engines from within DuckDuckGo by using ‘bangs’ (so to search Google, you can preface your terms with ‘!g’. A handy CheetSheet of ‘bangs’ is available.)
This is a great feature that extends the functionality of DuckDuckGo (whose search results are not always as good as Google’s), but you should be aware that using a ‘bang’ does not anonymize your searches – it simply passes them onto the relevant search engine. To search Google anonymously, you can use StartPage or Disconnect instead.