If you prefer that your internet searches not be subject to the all-seeing eye in Mountain View, the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine has got you covered (almost literally). Now with a souped-up browser extension and mobile app, DuckDuckGo is expanding its blanket of privacy across the entire web.
In its announcement, DuckDuckGo compares website tracking to a nosey neighbor, only more cyber-dystopian. "It’s a vast array of highly sophisticated tracker networks, run by big companies like Google and Facebook, recording everything you do online, often without your knowledge, and selling their findings to the highest bidder via targeted ads." Users are "misled" into thinking that opening an incognito tab on their browser fully shields them from the panopticon. "Sadly," they say, "that couldn't be further from the truth."
Thus, the introduction of the new DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser mobile app and browser extension, which I think of as a kind of privacy-obsessed personal security detail. If a site employs ad network tracking, they block it, and if it has an encrypted version, but isn't automatically directing you to it, DuckDuckGo will make sure that's where you land.
But it's not just about providing anti-snooping muscle, it's also about knowledge. As you visit a website, DuckDuckGo displays which trackers are in use and gives the site a Privacy Grade, A through F, based on those trackers as well as its privacy practices and encryption.
And if that's not enough, they aim to help you comprehend a website's terms of service through a collaboration with Terms of Service Didn't Read, an initiative that works to help users understand what the hell it is they're consenting to when they click "I agree."
Of course, its search engine still doesn't track you, nor does DuckDuckGo get its results from Google. Instead, it uses a combination of its Instant Answers open source platform, crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia, its own web crawling, and results sourced from Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex.
As of this writing, DuckDuckGo boasts almost 17 billion search queries, with an average of about 21 million per day. While that's a blip compared to what churns through Google (40,000 every second), DuckDuckGo's numbers are steadily rising, indicating that some users are becoming increasingly privacy conscious, and are taking steps to do something about it.