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Is DuckDuckGo Safe? A Brief Guide to a Private Internet Browser

With increased online tracking and data collection, web users are starting to value their cyberprivacy more and more. According to DataProt’s findings, 86% of Americans have even tried to decrease or remove their digital footprint. While some want to minimize their online presence, others are afraid of cybercriminals, who often use sensitive data to their advantage.
However, more often, private companies collect your data to market their products better. This may be the top reason to reduce one’s digital footprint, considering that their activity concerns more than 80% of US citizens.

How Does DuckDuckGo Protect Your Data?

DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that offers you anonymous search online. Unlike its more popular competitors like Bing, Yahoo, and Google, it doesn’t save your search history, IP address, device information, or any personal information. It’s not completely devoid of any tracking, but compared to its peers you don’t have to worry about DuckDuckGo selling your data to marketers and getting bombarded with ads.
It means that every time you open the browser, you will start from scratch. No ads will be based on your previous browser history. While the risk of search leakage to third parties is eliminated, DuckDuckGo can still share your data if there is a court order. So, is DuckDuckGo safe to use? It is surely safer than Google, which uses your personal information, preferences, and search results to improve advertisers’ reach and CTR.

Why Does Using an Anonymous Search Engine Matter?

Today, your browsing history doesn’t belong to you anymore. Traditional search engines, together with social media, realized that brands are going to pay for your data: your interests, preferences, needs, age, location, marital status, and more. Therefore, they are in a rush to collect as much information as possible to later resell it. And you aren’t completely safe even searching in incognito mode.
Anonymous search engines like DuckDuckGo don’t track, store, or share your data, which allows you to forget about getting bombarded with ads (which are often irrelevant). However, when you click on a website from the search results and go to a new page, you start playing by that website's rules. The private search engine's policies don't apply there.

Top 7 DuckDuckGo Privacy Features

Here are seven privacy features that improve your browsing experience with DuckDuckGo:

Blank Search History

Since your search history isn’t tracked and stored, it’s impossible to find your previous search terms or results. To completely protect yourself, you need to prohibit your browser from saving the visited pages. However, Internet service providers can still see and remember the websites you visit unless you are using a VPN and, ideally, a custom DNS server.

No Ad Trackers

Ad trackers rely on your browsing history, which isn’t stored by DuckDuckGo. Still, it was revealed that Microsoft trackers are active when using the private search engine. As stated by the company’s CEO, Microsoft ads, when making up your user profile, don’t rely on ad-click behavior.

No User Profiles

Search engines identify you based on your personal data (like age, gender, IP address), search history, and online behavior (pages you click on, etc.). All this info is gathered and used to personalize your experience, which usually raises privacy concerns. This isn’t the case with DuckDuckGo.

Enhanced Encryption

While DuckDuckGo can’t protect your data from tracking when you visit a website from the search results, it imposes the sites to use HTTPS encryption, which boosts your online security.

Little to No Spam

DuckDuckGo partners with Parked Domain Project to get rid of spam in search results. Unlike competitors, it relies on humans to scan search results and remove spamming websites. Moreover, it shows web resources with human-written meta-tags and ranks official websites higher in SERP (search engine results page).

The Same Search Results for Everyone

Usually, search results generated by the same search request differ depending on the user profile. Since there are no profiles in DuckDuckGo, you will see the same web resources as anyone else who types in the same search term.

Comprehensive Search

Thanks to the !bangs feature, you can seek data across 13,000 websites, including Wikipedia, social media like Twitter, and retail stores like Amazon.

DuckDuckGo: Advantages and Disadvantages

Of course, as with any product or service, there are both positive and negative aspects.

Advantages

  • Accessibility. The search engine is available as a mobile app for both Android and iOS, as well as a browser extension for Google Chrome.
  • Fair Search Results. You get what you are looking for — not more, not less.
  • No tracking. Your data and online activity aren’t recorded or traded.

Disadvantages

  • Lower Personalization. The price of enhanced privacy is that it can potentially take a longer time to find what you are frequently searching for.
  • Less Comprehensive Results. Google has a lot of useful features like “Related Searches” or “Google Reviews” that allow you to spot more goods or service providers. DuckDuckGo tried to compensate for this with Yelp reviews and Apple Maps; however, the results are still not great.

Is DuckDuckGo Profitable?

While Google makes money by selling your data to advertisers, DuckDuckGo relies on affiliate programs. When conducting a search, you will see ads that are relevant to your current request, together with search results. If you make a purchase, DuckDuckGo gets some commission.

What Is the Difference Between DuckDuckGo and Google?

Here are the key differences between DuckDuckGo and Google (as well as any other traditional search engine):

  • Tracking. Google knows everything about you and actively monetizes this information, mainly by using it for advertising purposes. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track or store your search history or user data. It provides ads relevant to your current search query.
  • Personalization. Google analyzes your preferences and online behavior to predict what you might be interested in. Sometimes, it does simplify and speed up your search. With DuckDuckGo, you start from scratch every time you type in a new search query.
  • Convenience. One of the major default search engines, Google, lets its users synchronize accounts to facilitate logging in across various platforms, while this isn’t an option with DuckDuckGo.

The verdict: is DuckDuckGo safe? It is, compared to Google. However, you might miss out on convenience and personalization.

Are There Any DuckDuckGo Alternatives?

DuckDuckGo isn’t the only option to improve your online security. Here is what you can opt for:

Startpage

This Dutch search engine claims to be the most private one in the segment. Like DuckDuckGo, it doesn’t store any user data and, obviously, doesn’t share it with third parties. Besides, it boasts an embedded proxy that hides your IP address and, therefore, allows for more privacy. Moreover, it provides Google Search Results for a more comprehensive online search.

Tor Browser

It’s a Firefox-based browser that prevents third parties from deciphering your data. Your data is split and encrypted into pieces, and it’s later sent through a random sequence of servers. As a result, it’s impossible to find out who sent the request. However, this implies lower loading speeds and responsiveness. Tor browser is widely used to become untraceable when accessing the dark web.

VPN

Neither anonymous search engines nor traditional ones ensure data encryption, allowing ISPs and governments to access your browsing history (only the domain names, but nevertheless). If you use a public network, the risks of cyberthreats significantly increase.
A VPN hides your IP address so that you can securely surf the web and be sure that your online activity isn’t tracked. However, VPNs do not protect you from tracking cookies, so it’s a good idea to enhance your privacy protection with an ad blocker or DNS filtering while using VPN. Or you can always use DuckDuckGo in addition to other precaution measures.

Why Choose AdGuard VPN?

AdGuard is a reliable VPN that allows you to securely navigate around the web via VPN servers in more than 40 countries. Here is what you get by securing your online activity with AdGuard VPN:

  • Customization. You can choose how the AdGuard VPN should work: it can route via encrypted channel either all your traffic (with some exceptions, if you want) or only traffic to selected websites.
  • Lots of locations. Choose where you wish your traffic to come through or choose the location with the best ping.
  • Improved Internet connection. The paid package allows you to enjoy secure web surfing at high speed. And the support for the cutting-edge QUIC network protocol will ensure good speed even if your Internet connection is poor.
  • Kill Switch. If your VPN connection is interrupted, the Kill Switch feature will immediately terminate the internet connection to make sure your personal data does not get compromised.
  • Up to 5 simultaneously connected devices. You can connect up to five devices at the same time for seamless protection.
  • Free 3GB of traffic monthly. It’s not necessary to buy premium access to AdGuard VPN: you can use it freely with some limitations (2 connected devices, 3GB of free traffic monthly, about 10 available server locations).

FAQ

Can you be tracked on DuckDuckGo?

No, you can’t. However, if you proceed to a website from search results, DuckDuckGo isn’t responsible for your data protection.

What is the downside of DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo offers far less customization than Google. Furthermore, the search results may be less comprehensive.

Is DuckDuckGo owned by China?

No, the search engine is a US-based company.

Is DuckDuckGo a dark web browser?

No, DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that doesn’t track, store, or collect your search history or private data.

How does DuckDuckGo make money?

DuckDuckGo profits from affiliate programs. When searching, you will see ads relevant to your current search request. If you buy something, the search engine will get a commission.

Does DuckDuckGo cost money?

No, it’s a free private search engine that profits only if you make a purchase through its advertisements.

Does DuckDuckGo sell your data?

No, DuckDuckGo doesn’t monetize your online behavior, preferences, or any other private information, unlike Google. However, it may still provide access to your data if there is a court order.

Is Google better than DuckDuckGo?

There is no single answer. Google wins with its convenience and improved personalization at the cost of violated data privacy. DuckDuckGo allows you to surf the web with no recorded search history or online behavior.

Is DuckDuckGo a VPN?

No, DuckDuckGo isn’t a VPN. It’s a search engine that doesn’t track or store your online activity and user data.

Does DuckDuckGo share your IP address?

No, DuckDuckGo doesn’t share your IP address, but the search engine stores it. It can reveal the IP address to the IRS if there is a court order.

Is duckduckgo safe from viruses?

You don’t risk infecting your computer or mobile with a virus by using the DuckDuckGo search engine. However, you should pay attention to the websites you navigate to from the SERP. Avoid anything that doesn’t seem completely trustworthy and install an antivirus if you want an additional layer of protection.

Is DuckDuckGo better than incognito?

Yes, DuckDuckGo is more secure than using incognito mode because it doesn’t store your browsing data and also prevents tracking. Incognito mode also doesn’t store your search history on your computer or mobile phone, but the tracking is still enabled.

Vasily Bagirov on Data protection
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