The impact of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA continue to reverberate. Internet users are growing increasingly antsy about the personal data being tracked (and handed over to the NSA) by the big search engines, and are turning to the independent search engine DuckDuckGo in ever greater numbers.
I’ve used DuckDuckGo for about a year now, and although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Google, it does deliver very accurate basic search results unpolluted by attempts to route traffic to its own sites. But more importantly, it doesn’t store your search data.
DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg says search data “is arguably the most personal data people are entering into anything. You’re typing in your problems, your desires. It’s not the same as things you post publicly on a social network.”
He decided not to retain search data after the AOL data release in 2005, when they accidentally published the search details of 650,000 of its users had made through Google.
“I looked at the search fiascos such as the AOL data release, and decided that government requests were real and would be inevitable, and that search engines and content companies would be handing over that data [to government] in increasing amounts,” he says.
He claims that it’s a “myth” that Google needs to store this data. “Almost all the money they make on search is based on what you type into the search box,” says Weinberg. “Nothing more. They need to track you for their other services – Gmail, YouTube – because those are hard to monetise, and that’s why you get ads following around the internet all the time.”
DuckDuckGo went from 1.7 million searches per day to over 3 million per day after Edward Snowden’s released details of the NSA’s Prism program, and continue to rise with every revelation.
Google has attempted to shut out DuckDuckGo by making it difficult to use as a default search engine in the Chrome browser, and disadvantaged it in its Android operating system. Google also outbid DuckDuckGo for the website Duck.com, and now redirects its traffic to Google.com.