Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo LogoI came across an article tweeted by @theprez98 about two months ago on an up and coming search engine called DuckDuckGo and was intrigued because their focus on privacy. And with all the kerfuffle on Google and their privacy practices, it seemed like a good time to check them out. Launched in 2007 they advertise not tracking users or bubbling up results based on a profiles. DuckDuckGo basically doesn’t recognize a user from one search to the next as they store almost nothing identifiable (not even your IP address or browser user agent strings). And by default search terms and other user information are not saved or passed along to resultant websites.

(Note: As part of a campaign to bring forward some of our older posts that we feel still benefit the community, we’ve added this article to our Best Of category that will periodically get tweeted out. Please mention it to me on Twitter or contact us if there are any other posts you feel we should include in this category. This post was previously categorized under Infosec Blogs/Podcasts. [email protected]grecs)

Reviews have been very positive in terms of search results. They have their own crawler but mainly integrate results from other niche search engines from within particular verticals. Depending on their perceived “area” of your search, DuckDuckGo weights returned results from search engines that focus on that area. This “intelligence” layer combined with their own web crawler seems to work well. I’ve been using it for about two months and am very satisfied with the relevancy of search results so far.

Picture of DuckDuckGo Main Search Page

Additionally, I found it fairly easy to integrate into my daily routine. On their front page they provide some quick settings for making it your default search engine. I occasionally have to use Google for things like image or map searches but that’s about it. And DuckDuckGo makes these quick one-off searches easy with their “bang” syntax to search various Google properties. For example if I want to search Google Images for “something” I would just enter “!gi something” into the search area. DuckDuckGo offers many other custom searches but the images search is pretty much the only option I’ve used. Every once in a while if I’m having problems finding something I’ll use !g to pipe the whole search to Google.

As advertised privacy is right at the top of their list with DuckDuckGo storing practically nothing the browser sends. This data includes any strings passed within the user agent as well as IP addresses. DuckDuckGo does use cookies but only to recognize custom search settings across sessions. I’ve been fairly happy with the default search settings, which means I could block the DuckDuckGo cookie if I wanted to. If you want to customize the privacy or any of the other settings, you’ll unfortunately need to allow them. Alternatively, you can setup a custom URL with these settings and use it in your bookmarks or as your homepage. Search terms are also saved but DuckDuckGo only uses this data for analysis (e.g., to suggest correct spellings) and they’re not tied to anything personally identifiable (e.g., your IP address).

DuckDuckGo also protects your privacy from websites they direct you to. As shown in the picture below, redirect protection and HTTPS are enabled by default. Redirect protection strips out search terms before sending a browser to the website. And their HTTPS setting automatically sends you to the encrypted version of a website if it’s supported. Note this setting doesn’t force browsers to use the encrypted version of DuckDuckGo. You’ll need to use something like HTTPS – Everywhere to ensure search and result pages are encrypted as well.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Options Panel

DuckDuckGo offers a lot of other pro-privacy features but I haven’t gotten much into anything else yet. For example, they advertise working well with Tor if you think they’re really storing your IP address. DuckDuckGo can also act as a TOR exit node so you could be completely anonymous all the way to the final website. And they even have a bang syntax for using their exit node –  !proxy. I haven’t figured all the details out yet regarding this setup but it’s something I’ll be looking into further.

Overall, I don’t think DuckDuckGo will ever be as big as Google but in this case it just seems fun rooting for the underdog … and getting tremendous privacy benefits as well. Plus maybe the security and privacy communities as a whole could siphon off enough traffic that perhaps Google will wise-up as well.


Get started today and set up DuckDuckGo as your default search engine! Today’s post pick is from See ya!

20 comments for “Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  1. May 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo: I came across an article tweeted by @theprez98 about two months ag… #ITSecurity

  2. May 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  3. May 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    BLOGGED: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo //In case you missed .. very cool search engine!

  4. May 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    “@grecs: BLOGGED: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo //In case you missed .. very cool search engine!”

  5. May 16, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  6. May 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  7. May 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  8. May 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Review of DuckDuckGo search engine, for those who like to avoid data miners and privacy.

  9. May 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    #Google, #Privacy, & #DuckDuckGo –

  10. May 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo |

  11. November 22, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo |

  12. January 22, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Best Of: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  13. February 20, 2014 at 4:38 am

    Best Of: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  14. March 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Best Of: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  15. December 3, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Best Of: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  16. March 8, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Best Of: Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  17. December 1, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

  18. February 9, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    #Google, Privacy, & @DuckDuckGo

    via @novainfosec

  19. February 9, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    #Google, Privacy, & DuckDuckGo

    via novainfosec

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