How Does DuckDuckGo Protect Your Privacy

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One of the concerns that many tech users have is feeling like their privacy is being invaded every time they search for something. Authors who write murder mysteries often joke that they must look like serial killers because of their search history. Maybe those writers should use DuckDuckGo for their searches!

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Typical search engines such as Google and Bing store your search history on their servers. This history includes which resulting sites you ultimately visited. They don’t just save a list of sites and search terms. These search engines also collect the time and date of the search and your IP address, which browser you are using and the operating system on which it is running. It’s also possible for them to store information about your accounts such as usernames and passwords if you visit a site you are already logged into.

Knowing that all this information is available on a server somewhere that you have no control over can be nerve-wracking. You can never be 100% sure that the company will not use your data in some underhanded way. Also, know that sometimes the companies that own this data must legally give up that information to law enforcement.

DuckDuckGo makes both of those scenarios impossible. This browser doesn’t store any of that data on their servers, and therefore there is literally no information to sell, give away, or hand over.

How exactly does DuckDuckGo work without keeping personal information? They use several different methods to keep your private data exactly that – private!

Prevents Search Leakage

In other search engines, when you click on a link, that click reveals a bit of information about you similar to the types of information discussed earlier. That information is then shared with every website you click on from the results page. DuckDuckGo has branded this practice as “search leakage.”

The data that the other search engines send to these websites reveals not only what you searched for but also information about you, such as your user agent and your IP address. The concerning part of this is that search leakage directly links you personally to that specific information. In short, the website knows who you are and what you are searching for from this one click.

Duckduckgo How Search Leakage

DuckDuckGo blocks search leakage automatically by rerouting your clicks so that websites will not know where the click came from.

No Search History

As I mentioned before, DuckDuckGo does not save your search history. You cannot access a list of your searches from their server, so neither can anyone else. Remember, your browser still saves the search pages you accessed.

Each browser has different policies concerning what they do with this information. For example, Chrome sends your data to Google, and Edge sends it to Microsoft. Firefox does not send queries to Mozilla, and Apple assures you that search queries are not associated with your IP address. If you use a different browser, check their website for their policies on storing search history.

No User Profiles

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Most search engines create a user profile on you with information like:

  • user behavior
  • age
  • gender
  • search history
  • device type
  • IP address
  • browser cookies

DuckDuckGo does not produce these profiles, and therefore you are not linked to any sites you visit or searches you perform.

Eliminates Filter Bubbles

When a search engine tracks and gathers information on you over time, you can find yourself in a “filter bubble.” According to Dictionary.com, a filter bubble is:

“A phenomenon that limits an individual’s exposure to a full spectrum of news and other information on the Internet by algorithmically prioritizing content that matches a user’s demographic profile and online history or excluding content that does not.

In other words, you get only what the algorithm thinks you’re looking for.

Since DuckDuckGo does not collect information that identifies your personal preferences, your results pages are more unbiased. You get the same results as everyone else who did that search.

Blocks Advertising Trackers

Duckduckgo How Tracking You

If the sites you are visiting during your search contain advertising trackers, DuckDuckGo first attempts to block them. It is usually successful, and this reduces any risk of your information being at risk.

Encrypts Search Data

When you click on the results from a search on DuckDuckGo, the search engine automatically pulls up the encrypted (HTTPS) version of each site you click on rather than the unencrypted versions. This extra layer of protection keeps your data even more secure.

DuckDuckGo is a useful tool to help you make good decisions about the searches you do and the sites you visit. If you use a browser extension, it will also display a letter grade for each site you visit based on its privacy practices so that you can monitor all sites for issues.

2 comments

  1. “Also, know that sometimes the companies that own this data must legally give up that information to law enforcement.”
    Then, either the company or the law or both, can slice and dice that data to build a totally erroneous profile of a the user as a serial killer or a terrorist.

    “Firefox does not send queries to Mozilla”
    That may be so. But it uses Google’s Safe Browsing it checks each and every site you visit against Google’s database. Each of those queries is recorded by Google. So Mozilla may not be tracking you but Google is.

    “In other words, you get only what the algorithm thinks you’re looking for.”
    Since Donald Trump won the last election, there has been fury and indignation about the Russians influencing the elections in his favor. What has been glossed over, either unintentionally or on purpose, is “How Google is influencing what you click” (https://spreadprivacy.com/google-filter-bubble-study/)

    “If you use a browser extension, it will also display a letter grade for each site you visit based on its privacy practices so that you can monitor all sites for issues.”
    I am using this extension and what it tells me about MTE is not very flatering.

  2. Very clear article, i know now how to call what i have found myself stuck into that made me change my browser to Firefox and my search engine to Duckduckgo some years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air, i never came back to that ‘”filter bubble” which was so much restricting, it felt like the world wide web had only a hundred websites, after the switch it feels infinite again.

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