Get your privacy ducks in a row with DuckDuckGo

If you haven't tried the excellent DuckDuckGo yet, now's the time to take this privacy-conscious search engine for a spin.
  • Alex Wawro (PC World (US online))
  • 19 April, 2013 18:29

Google, Bing, and Yahoo are bitter rivals in their quest for your search engine affection, but they have at least one thing in common: They track your search history and tailor the results of your queries to your interests. Yes, they're attempting to improve your search experience, but that sort of surveillance is anathema to privacy enthusiasts and anyone who doesn't want to be stuck in an echo chamber of their own interests. DuckDuckGo is a different kind of search engine, designed to capitalize on the big shots' poor privacy practices by offering an alternative that's simple and anonymous.

Private searching made simple

At the DuckDuckGo site, just type your query and click the green magnifying-glass search button. DuckDuckGo employs HTTPS encryption and will not include your search query when it builds links to websites, so the sites you visit won't know what terms you used to find them. DuckDuckGo also refrains from logging your queries and doesn't tailor results based on your browsing history, so you're guaranteed to get unfiltered access to the Web.

If your search results don't pop up quite as quickly as they do on Google, that's because DuckDuckGo isn't just checking your query against its own database (carefully collected by the DuckDuckBot Web crawler)--it's simultaneously running your search across Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more than 30 other search engines. DuckDuckGo will also check against Wikipedia, Wolfram ­Alpha, and other knowledge engines to try to create short summaries, called "0-click boxes," that answer your query so that you don't have to click through.

If you don't want to wait, you can switch off 0-click boxes in the Results section of the DuckDuckGo Settings menu. While you're there, consider turning on the integrated Web of Trust ratings for your search results, which will cause DuckDuckGo to display color coding to help you gauge whether the link is safe to click: green is all clear, yellow suggests caution, and red signals danger. Web of Trust ratings are crowdsourced from millions of volunteers who rate sites' trustworthiness in handling user data. Although Web of Trust is available via free add-ons for almost every browser, DuckDuckGo is the first search engine to display WoT reputation data alongside each search result.

DuckDuckGo isn't new, and it won't topple Google or Bing anytime soon, but it is the best search engine in regard to respecting user privacy. It's refreshing to see a common-sense privacy policy that has all the settings tuned in your favor by default, and that alone is reason enough to give DuckDuckGo a shot.