A Privacy Focused Search Engine is Perfect for Executives

As tech titans like Google and Facebook continuously make headlines for user privacy violations, it’s no surprise that a pro-privacy company like DuckDuckGo would thrive in this environment.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that takes an aggressive position against tracking people online, emphasizes protecting searchers privacy, and avoiding filter bubbles that result from the personalized search results that Google delivers.

With 3.5 billion daily searches, Google is still the undeniable market leader in search, but some cracks are starting to appear. In 2017, nearly 700,000 new users connected to the internet every day. That’s a quarter billion new users each year, all with search queries that need answering. Despite this continual growth in demand, Google has experienced a continuous decrease in search volume over the same period of time.

Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo has experienced a 50% increase in searches over the last year. So, what makes DuckDuckGo so special?

Security Features of DuckDuckGo

Password Generator

Coming up with a strong password to protect your digital crown jewels can be a daunting task. Many people use passwords that are easy to guess and even easier for a computer to crack. If passwords like “123456,” “letmein,” “password1,” and “hello” are familiar to you, you may want to try DuckDuckGo’s password generator.

Simply visit DuckDuckGo and search for “Password 20”. This search will deliver you a 20-character long password. If you want your password to be longer or shorter, you can replace the number 20 in your search to change the number of characters generated for your password.

By searching "password 20" DuckDuckGi will automatically create a strong 20-character long password for you

If remembering long strings of nonsense numbers and letters isn’t your thing, DuckDuckGo has another great password generation tool for you. Simply type “random passphrase” into the search query. DuckDuckGo will generate a four phrase long password that is both secure and easy to remember.

By searching "random passphrase" DuckDuckGo will automatically create a strong passphrase for you

“enforced marbles crane velocity” is much easier to remember than “fqFeAoDwYTSvLhm7vezA” and still incredibly difficult for a computer to crack.

XKCD comic about password strength

Image Source

Link Expander

Clicking a shortened URL like a bit.ly or a goo.gl is always risky. Hackers create legitimate-looking short URLs to obscure the target website and lure a victim to scam pages in a phishing attempt or spam pages containing malware. If you come across a shortened URL that you want to follow, it’s always a good idea to look at its origin before following the link.

DuckDuckGo has a solution for this, type “expand” in the search bar, followed by the URL in question. DuckDuckGo will then reveal the ultimate destination that the URL is referencing.

The Link Expander feature in DuckDuckGo allows you to see where shortened URL's are going to take you

Privacy Features of DuckDuckGo

Search Leakage Prevention

When you conduct a search and click on a link using most search engines, the terms you use to search are disclosed to the website that you clicked on. If you’re searching for something private, you’re sharing that private search with your search engine as well as all of the websites you visit from that search. This sharing of personal information is called “search leakage.”

On top of this, whenever you visit any website, your computer automatically sends information to it (user agent & IP address) that can be used to identify you specifically.

DuckDuckGo has a variety of ways to prevent this search leakage from occurring.

  • Default settings

By default when you click a link on their site, they redirect your request in a way that doesn’t send your search terms to other sites. This means that the sites you visit will know that you visited them but not what you were searching for to find them.

  • !proxy

Using a proxy like Tor will prevent sites from knowing you visited them at all. DuckDuckGo operates a Tor exit node which ensures end-to-end anonymous and encrypted searching. You can also type “!proxy + a web address” and they will route you through a proxy.

There are drawbacks to this though. Proxies can be slow, free proxies tend to be funded by advertisements, and if you’re using this at work, your network policies may prohibit access to Proxies.

  • POST requests

Using a POST request is another option to prevent search leakage. POST requests must be turned on in your DuckDuckGo settings. Before you toggle on POST requests you should that your back button likely won’t work when using POST requests.


Privacy Scores

DuckDuckGo’s browser extension has a great feature built-in to help you evaluate how protected your privacy is on different websites. They create privacy scores for sites based on if they host major tracking networks, have clear and fair privacy policies, and if their connection is encrypted.

DuckDuckGo's Privacy Scores rank the website you're on to help you determine the strength of its privacy features

Here, I used the tool to compare the privacy of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Search History Anonymity

  • Cookies

Browser cookies are unique identifiers that can be stored in your browser for search engines to recognize you and associate your identity, represented by the cookie, with your searches. While most search engines use cookies to tie together your searches, DuckDuckGo doesn’t use cookies at all.

Not only does this preserve your privacy but it also prevents filter bubbles that occur when you’re fed personalized search results based on your past preferences.

  • Information Saving

Most search engines save your search history along with the date and time of the search, information about your computer (including IP address, user agent, and an identifying cookie), plus your account information (including email and full name).

All of this information can be publicized due to negligence, court order, or a hacker. While participating in research, AOL accidentally released the searches of more than half a million users when they failed to anonymize the data correctly. The privacy policies on search engines tell you that they will give your information to law enforcement when mandated by court order.

While DuckDuckGo is subject to the same laws that mandate search engines to turn over user information to law enforcement, they aren’t obligated to collect user information in the first place. So they don’t.

Hackers can’t steal data they don’t have, DuckDuckGo can’t accidentally leak information they never saved, and since the data isn’t collected, it also can’t be disclosed to law enforcement.

DuckDuckGo vs Other Search Engines

Search Engine  Company Year Launched Advertisements?
Baidu Baidu 2000 Yes
Bing Microsoft 1998 / 2009 Yes
DuckDuckGo DuckDuckGo 2009 Optional
Google Alphabet 1998 Yes
Yahoo! Verizon  1995 Yes
Yandex Yandex 1997 Yes
Search Engine  Server Location Tor Gateway Available Internet Censorship
Baidu China No Yes – China
Bing USA / China No Yes – China
DuckDuckGo USA Yes No
Google USA No Yes – Argentina / China
Yahoo! USA No Yes – Argentina
Yandex Russia No Unknown
Search Engine  IP Tracking Information Sharing Warrantless Wiretapping of Unencrypted Backend Traffic
Baidu Unknown Unknown Unknown
Bing Yes Yes Yes, up to and including 2014
DuckDuckGo No No No
Google Yes Yes Yes, up to and including 2013
Yahoo! Yes Yes Yes, up to and including 2014
Yandex Unknown Limited Unknow