DuckDuckGo search engine is among the safest engines. The DuckDuckGo browser is mostly secure, but there have been some concerns recently. That’s the short version – read the article to learn more about whether you can trust the duck.

Table of contents

    What is DuckDuckGo?

    DuckDuckGo is an internet privacy company formed back in 2008. They offer a privacy search engine and other apps and extensions to protect users 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 to third parties, nor do they create a user profile tied to your searches. 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 – which usually means that the search term you entered in the search engines will be 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, Google and DuckDuckGo have different uses. The main difference between these two search engines is how they address results.

    With DuckDuckGo, the search results do not come from an algorithm built on user information. Instead, it’s a blank slate search-wise.

    “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, CEO of DuckDuckGo

    DuckDuckGo’s philosophy is that the companies behind search engines shouldn’t profit from 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 from 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.

    **It has recently come to light that DuckDuckGo allowed Microsoft trackers due to their agreement on advertising. The trackers were necessary to monetize the ads and were supposedly anonymized. The company has recently managed to change its deal

    This information leans 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 both yes and no based on the following two sections.

    Why 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 the searches are encrypted, they will remain behind on your computer. In other words, your browsing history will still leave hints detailing your path.

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

    Ways that DuckDuckGo can track you

    Despite the following site not knowing where you came from, links still provide information about where you are going. Given that these links 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. It also bears remembering the Microsoft controversy we mentioned earlier. 

    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

    DuckDuckGo’s upsides are plentiful, including:

    • 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

    Of course, DuckDuckGo also has its shortcomings, the biggest being:

    • Lack of personalization – since DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect your data, it’s not possible to get user-specific results (i.e., the 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 Google, the go-to search engine. 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 keep your real IP safe from third-party websites as well as any third-party trackers that DuckDuckGo has chosen not to disable (like what happened recently with Microsoft). 

    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 a private search engine while enjoying an extra layer of security from Surfshark VPN. In other words, your internet world of possibilities just got bigger. 

    Why not try Surfshark Search instead?

    That’s right – all Surfshark enthusiasts can use Surfshark Search. It’s our search engine that doesn’t track you. It doesn’t even have ads. And since you know that the subscription model funds Surfshark, there’s no need to worry about us using your data for sale. Not that Search keeps any as all the search results are organic, not influenced by your previous searches. 

    In conclusion: 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 the perfect privacy tool. But with the combined efforts of DuckDuckGo and Surfshark VPN, you can be sure that your data is safer than it would have been without it.

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    FAQ

    What is the downside of DuckDuckGo?

    The biggest issue of DuckDuckGo as a search engine is that it can’t always find easy answers like Google can. You’ll need to do some digging to find Wikipedia links or sometimes even go to page 2.

    Is DuckDuckGo owned by Google?

    DuckDuckGo is not owned by Google. It is owned by Duck Duck Go Inc., which, as far as we know, isn’t owned by anyone else. 

    Is DuckDuckGo a VPN?

    DuckDuckGo isn’t a VPN. It’s a search engine and an associated web browser. 

    Is DuckDuckGo owned by Microsoft?

    DuckDuckGo is not owned by Microsoft. However, Bing-powered ads are one of the ways that DuckDuckGo earns revenue. 

    What is the most secure search engine?

    DuckDuckGo, Startpage, and Surfshark Search are among the most private search engines around – check our article for more details.