I 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.
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.
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 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 DuckDuckGo.com. See ya!