DuckDuckGo: What to know about Google’s private search competitor

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Most of us have experienced the ugly side of online tracking. You know, searching for a pair of shoes and then seeing advertisements for those exact shoes follow you to the ends 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 do not track online.

There are other private browsers, such as Brave, which block third-party trackers and cookies that monitor your activity when you search the web. But DuckDuckGo – which is increasingly investing in a advertising campaign — sees itself as a direct competitor to Google Search, with a mobile app and extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and other browsers.

After major incidents like the Cambridge Analytica Scandalpeople have become more aware of the amount of personal information available to tech companies and advertisers – and choose not to be tracked when they can, such as Apple iOS 14.5 allow to do. Although it does not track users, DuckDuckGo’s app has been downloaded over 50 million times last year alone – more than all other years combined since its launch 13 years ago.

Here’s what you need to know about DuckDuckGo and how it works to secure your searches.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that offers a mobile browser app and a desktop extension, both meant to let you browse the internet without companies gobbling up your personal data. It promises to keep your searches private, anonymous, and offers built-in tracking blocking, so the sites you visit have a harder time collecting information about you.

Read more: The Best VPNs 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, let you use private or incognito windows that don’t track your search history, but their default windows do. (This is the base of every “embarrassing search historyjoke.) Instead of navigating you to a different version of its app, DuckDuckGo never tracks your search history.

Searches through DuckDuckGo also automatically connect you to encrypted versions of websites where possible, making it harder for anyone to see what you’re watching online. This is another scenario where both options (encrypted and unencrypted) exist on other search engines, but the default is not always the privacy-friendly option. DuckDuckGo saves you the extra steps of manually navigating to encrypted connections.

DuckDuckGo came under fire in May when researchers discovered that certain Microsoft tracking scripts were bundled into DuckDuckGo’s Bing-based syndicated search results. The presence of Microsoft trackers seems to go against the search engine’s promise of privacy. However, DuckDuckGo previously had unveiled its partnership with Microsoft, which powers the DuckDuckGo search engine, including what information is tracked if you click on Microsoft advertisements. And DuckDuckGo stays ahead of other popular privacy options when it comes to blocking tracking data.

DuckDuckGo also actively blocks external trackers to follow you anywhere online. For a more detailed explanation of DuckDuckGo’s privacy features, see The DuckDuckGo Blog.

DuckDuckGo Search Page

The DuckDuckGo search engine emphasizes privacy.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

How is DuckDuckGo different from Google Search? What about Incognito Mode and Private Browsing?

DuckDuckGo essentially takes the opposite approach compared to other big tech companies like Google and Facebook, which have traditionally made money by ad targeting based on your browsing history and personal data. Although Google has said it will end this practice, the platform still collects a ton of data about you, including Your location and research activity — yes, even in incognito mode.

Incognito mode simply removes information from your computer related to your browsing session: your history, cookies and all the information you have entered in the fields. Notably, it only does this after you end your session by closing all your tabs. So if you leave your incognito tabs open for hours or days at a time, this information will continue to accumulate. And no matter what, Google can log your searches — and businesses, ISPs, and governments can still track you around the internet, even when you’re using incognito mode.

DuckDuckGo is different because it doesn’t store your browsing data at all and blocks trackers while you browse.

A tracking notification stuck on DuckDuckGo

When you first use DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, the app will walk you through the different ways it protects your privacy.

Screenshot by Adam Benjamin/CNET

If it doesn’t target ads, how does DuckDuckGo make money?

DuckDuckGo still makes money from advertising – it just doesn’t use targeted ads. The search engine shows you advertisements based on the keywords you search for, which are not linked to your personal data like your browsing or purchase history. Essentially, you’ll only see ads for what you’re currently looking for, not the weird product your friend sent you a link to last week that you can’t walk away from.

How can I use DuckDuckGo?

On mobile devices, simply 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. At the bottom center of your app, you’ll see a fire icon, which you can tap at any time to close all your tabs and clear all personal data.

On the desktop, go to duckduckgo.com, where you will see a button to add DuckDuckGo to your browser. On Chrome, you will be directed to the Chrome web store page to download the extension for free. On Safari, you’ll learn how to set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine or manually enable a search using DuckDuckGo.

To learn more about online privacy, see the browser privacy settings you need to change right now, how to stop your iphone apps from tracking youand the best password managers of 2021.


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