Is DuckDuckGo safe?

DuckDuckGo is one of the safest private search engines out there. Everyone gets the same search results, no personalized ads, and you can even go to the extent of “burning” your search history as soon as you’re finished – unlike Google. However, relying only on DuckDuckGo as your default search engine shouldn’t be the case. 

    What is DuckDuckGo?

    DuckDuckGo is an internet privacy company formed back in 2008. They offer both a privacy search engine and other apps and extensions to keep users protected from Facebook, Google, and other trackers on the web. 

    Your search privacy is DuckDuckGo’s main selling point. Though it’s a free service, your information is not stored every time you search for something. Also, your searches aren’t exposed, and a user profile tied to your searches is never made. Therefore, fewer ads. 

    Unless you wish to share your personal information with DuckDuckGo, they don’t keep anything on their side of the platform.

    What is DuckDuckGo?

    DuckDuckGo’s encryption also solves the “search leakage” issue – when you type a search term, it’s sent to the website you click on – putting the minds of many privacy enthusiasts at ease.  

    DuckDuckGo vs. Google

    In the battle of the search engines, both Google and DuckDuckGo have different uses. The main difference between these two search engines is how they address results.

    The DuckDuckGo search engine is the total opposite compared to Google’s search engine. DuckDuckGo’s search results do not come from an algorithm built of user information. Instead, it’s blank.

    “The issue with Google is they run four of the biggest ad networks in the world, and only one is search-related. The rest are on millions of sites and apps across the internet and they use tracking to do better at ads on these third-party sites.”
    - Gabriel Weinberg

    DuckDuckGo’s company philosophy is that their company shouldn’t profit off of your data. While you sacrifice valuable features like autocomplete and location-based searches, many users who want a more private alternative are more than happy to make the trade.

    DuckDuckGo
    Google
    Blocks third parties from storing, tracking and selling your personal data.
    Yes
    No
    Retrieves data from your private email(s).
    No
    Yes
    Retains IP address and search history.
    No
    Yes
    Shows you personalized ads based on your habits to earn money.
    No*
    Yes
    Gives customized search results.
    No
    Yes
    Has an easy-to-understand privacy policy.
    Yes
    No

    *DuckDuckGo still needs to make a living. They make money off of ads that they show, but they are not personalized for each user. Also, clicking on affiliate codes will earn DuckDuckGo money, but nothing is tracked.

    This information leans us towards “yes” when asking, “Is DuckDuckGo legit?” But how much can they keep hidden from third parties and other peeping eyes on the web? Let’s jump to the next section to find out. 

    Can you be tracked on DuckDuckGo?

    Can you be tracked on DuckDuckGo?

    From the list above, you can see that DuckDuckGo doesn’t track as much as Google. However, it isn’t easy to be 100% private when you need to make a living – as in DuckDuckGo’s case. All their services are free, but it’s far from perfect if you want more private browsing. 

    So, does DuckDuckGo track you? The answer is yes and no based on the following two sections.

    No, DuckDuckGo can’t track you

    DuckDuckGo solves one major problem regarding internet privacy: search leakage. Other search engines, such as Google, collect your data and use it to track your actions. Search leakage happens when data from the search engine is sent to the site you visit.

    Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo doesn’t send that information. Other sites won’t know that you came in from DuckDuckGo. This is due to the encryption the search engine uses to remove this part of the information sent through the internet.

    However, in terms of local-level hacking, DuckDuckGo will not be able to save your information. That’s because although searches are encrypted, they will remain behind on your computer. Your browsing history will still leave hints detailing your path.

    So, if someone were to hack into your computer, DuckDuckGo’s protection wouldn’t help you. Your search history is also visibly trackable, as clicked sources appear darker. 

    Yes, DuckDuckGo can track you

    Despite the following site not knowing where you came from, links still provide information to where you are going. Given that those links will take you back to your search, this search engine can still track you with enough effort.

    Also, if you willingly share your personal information with DuckDuckGo, they may be able to track you.

    DuckDuckGo: Pros vs. Cons

    As we’ve explored, DuckDuckGo does stand up to its primary mission: keeping you private. However, there are some downsides to its search engine. 

    Pros

    • No tracked user data – DuckDuckGo doesn’t even know how many users it has. 
    • No stored user data – It only stores the bare minimum for spelling corrections and search suggestions.
    • Pure search results – It won’t give you search results based on assumptions of your location or browsing history.
    • No ads – You won’t get any annoying ads popping out while you browse. 
    • One-scroll experience – All search results are shown on one page, letting you scroll down to see more results.
    • Bangs – A feature that lets you get results only from a specific platform like Wikipedia instead of searching the whole web.
    • Instant answers – It works similarly to Google’s featured snippet by letting you get answers to your search queries without having to open any webpage. 

    Cons

    • Lack of personalization – Since DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect your data, it’s not possible to get user-specific results (i.e., auto-suggest function). Therefore, local listings may also be harder to find. 
    • Fewer services – Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo only has a search engine. Therefore things like the Play Store, Google Books, Google Music, etc., are not available. 

    Why use a VPN on top of DuckDuckGo? 

    So far, I’ve mentioned several ways DuckDuckGo is safer and more private than the go-to search engine, Google. However, if you want to take an extra step toward ultimate online privacy and security, using a Virtual Private Network like Surfshark on top of DuckDuckGo is vital. 

    When you connect to Surfshark, your data is automatically encrypted, and your device is given a different IP (Internet Protocol) address. This will protect you from other websites and their policies. So, all the websites you click on when browsing with the DuckDuckGo search engine will think you are a unique user from another country.

    It’s a 2-in-1 combo of privacy protection – you get all the perks of the private search engine while enjoying an extra layer of security from Surfshark VPN. In other words, your internet world of possibilities just got bigger. 

    We can’t be 100% private, but we can start from somewhere

    When asking “is DuckDuckGo safe,” remember that there is no one solution that is a perfect privacy tool. But with combined efforts from DuckDuckGo and Surfshark VPN, you can be sure that your data is safer than it would have been without it. 

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