Privacy advocates have for some time now promoted the use of search engine Duckduckgo as an alternative to mainstream search engines such as Google and Bing!, with it even being adopted by hactivist group Anonymous as their default search engine.
Thanks to the recent scandalous revelations about blanket surveillance on pretty much everybody by the NSA with its PRISM program, a program which involves collaboration by the likes of Google and Microsoft (owners of Bing!), hordes of internet users have turned to Duckduckgo in an effort to avoid being tracked.
Duckduckgo, although it uses Google, Bing! and other large search engine’s algorithms, anonymizes the search requests, and does not track users through either Cookie ID’s (cookies deposited in your browser’s cookies folder that can be used to trace search requests) or IP logging.
Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of Duckduckgo, ‘The Search Engine that Vows Not to Track You’ has stated that ‘if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you’.
Of course, this still means that we have to trust Weinberg and Duckduckgo, which we have no reason not to, although many of us thought the same about Google once too! Nevertheless, at the moment Duckduckgo seems to be the best bet available for performing anonymous web searches.
Those who are really paranoid may prefer to use YaCy, a decentralized search engine that provides a very high degree of anonymity through the use of P2P technology. Unfortunately it is less good as an actual search engine. This may change however, so that while for now we don’t really think it is fit for purpose, we look forward to seeing how it develops.
At first sight, those used to the elegance and customizability of Google or Bing! may be disappointed by the text only search results thrown up by Duckducjgo. However, Duckduckgo allows you to narrow down your search to get the results you want very easily, through the use of ‘bangs’. Just enter the ‘bang’ before your search terms to get the results you want.
There are hundreds of ‘bangs’ available, but some of the most useful are:
|![website]||Will search using the named website (most large ones are supported). E.g !google|
|!gi||Google images (other generic words should also work)|
|!i or !images||Images|
|!safeoff||Turns safe search off|
|!d||The Free Dictionary|
For those concerned about maintaining their privacy, Duckduckgo is a great choice of search engine, as it maintains your anonymity but is also easy to use and, as it uses the algorithms of engines such as Google, produces great results. It is not perfect, but until a fully decentralised P2P solution is effectively realised, it is a great alternative to the big US companies that are in the NSA’s pocket, and is fairly painless to get used to.