Many are flocking to the DuckDuckGo search engine as details of PRISM and NSA online surveillance activities have come to the public’s attention. DuckDuckGo (or DDG) is one of the few search engines that respects user privacy.
Unlike Google, Bing, Yahoo and others, DDG does not record or collect user information. Search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook typically collect and use personal information to profit from ads and marketing. But as you’ve probably heard in the news, it was recently discovered that these tech giants and others share this private data, including IP addresses, emails, chat conversations, even Facebook posts, with the NSA and other federal agencies.
After the exposure of the PRISM program earlier this year, DDG’s usage has increased astronomically and is currently receiving over 100 million queries each month.
Think you have nothing to hide? The NSA has already demonstrated abuses of their access to private data. Take the example of NSA Officers using collected information to stalk love interests. Who’s to say they’ll safeguard the data they collect and keep your information out of the wrong hands?
Since DDG doesn’t collect user data, they have nothing to hand over to the NSA or anyone else. Of course, if the NSA wants to target a group or individual, they’ll certainly get the data they want. DDG or any other privacy service can only go so far. Still, there are plenty of good reasons to use it over Google. Here are a few:
- No “personal search.” Google likes to think they know what you want. Since they have your search history, the search engine will show results based on their assumptions about you. It’s an annoying feature. People send you links you’re not interested it but you click anyway, or your spouse borrows your computer to do a quick search from time to time. Suddenly the search results are showing items you have no interest in. Of course, these features can be turned off but they are on by default with most people not realizing it.
- Google and other search engines use search history to show advertising. Don’t forget, Google is not a software company; it’s first and foremost a media company that generates revenue from advertisements. If you don’t mind being shown advertisements based on what you search for, that’s your business (and anyone else who uses your computer). Once at an all day workshop, a manger had his computer connected to the projector. As he looked up information in Google and on some websites for the team, we couldn’t help to notice the same flashy dating ads showing up in different places. He was a married man, was he really vising dating sites? Was it even him, did someone borrow his computer to browse dating sites? No one said anything but it didn’t go unnoticed and led people to wonder.
- As good as Google is, I often don’t find what I’m looking for on the first few tries. Movie times, word definitions, baseball scores, Google excels at the popular searches. It’s the longer search phrases or obscure terms I usually have trouble with. Either I get unrelated sites or a bunch of spam sites. I can’t say DDG is better at tough searches, but it does surprise me on occasion. DDG’s results come from 50 different sources including Wolfram Alpha. DDG also makes an effort to block results from content farm sites designed to game Google’s search algorithm and filters.
Since DDG does not collect personal data they don’t have any targeted ads or personalized search “features.” I like that they filter out content farm sites I get tired of seeing again and again in Google.
If you’re thinking of making the switch, here’s a collection of DDG tools and resources similar to what the big search engines offer. Be sure to bookmark this page for quick reference.
How to make DDG your browser’s homepage, add or change default search provider and official extensions:
Firefox (version 23)
- To set DDG as your homepage, click and drag the following link to the small home icon in Firefox: DuckDuckGo Homepage. If done correctly you’ll receive a popup asking if you want to change your homepage. Click ‘Yes’ and you’re done.
Safari (version 5)
Internet Explorer 9
- To set DDG as the homepage: visit DuckDuckGo.com, click Set as Homepage on the bottom right. Also click Add to Browser -> Install IE search provider and check the box to make it the default search provider.
- No official extension.
DDG mobile apps:
DuckDuckGoodies are instant answers to common searches, like unit conversions and calculations, that appear on the top of the search results. Google has a similar feature they added to search a couple years ago.
Here’s a categorized list of available Goodies with examples: DuckDuckGoodies
Add a DDG search box to your site:
Advanced searching: operators, switches and filters: DDG Syntax
Support and Community
Main help and support pages: https://dukgo.com/help/en_US
DDG user forums: http://duck.co/
There are lots more resources but this is enough to get most people going. From now on when someone comes to you with a question you don’t know the answer to, instead of suggesting they Google it, you can now tell them to Duck it!