DuckDuckGo: the privacy-friendly engine takes flight

DuckDuckGo is a Pennsylvania-based search engine with a philosophy of maintaining privacy and not storing any personal information about users. No intrusive cookies, IP address or other information concerning the location, browser and configuration of the Internet user. To demonstrate the need for such a service, the Duck Duck Go team conducted a kind of experiment on Google and its results based on different criteria. Without being logged in to their Google account (which is automatically activated when you log in to Gmail or another Google service), more than 130 American Internet users have carried out the same searches on certain keywords.

Targeted research, even if you don’t want to

The conclusion of this research shows that users never have the same results. Some will have targeted ads based on their geographic location or previous searches. Take the example of two Internet users who would have typed “gun control” (“control of the weapons”, a hot topic concerning the second amendment of the USA) on Google. The first one having researched the site of the NRA (the National Rifle Association, the lobby in favor of the possession of firearms) will not have the same results as the other, which does not have a opinion on the matter or will surf sites against the Second Amendment.

Even by disabling the browsing history or with private browsing, Google will still take your location into account. Of course, there is no question of pointing the finger at Google since the results could be the same with Yahoo !, Bing or any other search engine. It is, in fact, the end of standard results and the advent of targeted results for everyone.

Also read: VPN and download: anonymity, encryption and security with CyberGhost

Martine has herpes

And this poses several problems. Imagine a woman who types “herpes” into Google and clicks on one of the links. Its search will be sent along with its IP and other location information to different sites: other engines and provider of targeted advertising. Martine Dubois (alias 168.152.41.XX) therefore sees her next searches on Google and other engines turn into a cruel reminder of her little health problem. Imagine doing a home search with a friend or her family. The person will see advertisements for creams, pills, and other remedies with names that say a lot about Martine.

Information about Martine may also be sold to third parties. In the USA, for example, you may be refused health insurance if you know that you have problems of this type. Stronger, some hotel reservation sites offer higher prices to Mac users, deemed richer than PC users … The other problem lies in the creation of a “bubble” around the Internet user. By dint of having results which abound in your direction on matters of society or politics, you do not risk being confronted with other opinions, other people, other ideas.

The duck that goes up, that goes up …

In addition to preserving the anonymity of Internet users and not recording any information about their research, Duck Duck Go distinguishes itself by using crowdsourced information from other sites to improve relevance and enrich results. He also devotes part of his advertising revenues to finance projects in the free world. In 2012, the engine was ranked 1826th among the most visited sites in the world according to Alexa. He is in 166th position in July 2021, far ahead of the French Qwant.

But it’s only recently that DuckDuckGo has really taken off: its application has been downloaded more than 50 million times over the past year and the engine has passed Microsoft’s Bing in several countries including the USA. This push is likely to continue since the latest versions of Android ask the user to choose the search engine that will be used by default during the first use and DuckDuckGo is listed. in this list.

Also read: Security, anonymity … How to change your IP address?

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