How Anonymous Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo Search Engine on computer screen
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Summary: How Anonymous is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that puts your privacy first. It does not store your search history or track your online activities. As a result, it allows you to browse the web more anonymously compared to Google, which is notorious for its invasive privacy practices.

If you’re concerned about the data that Google collects about you, you can use DuckDuckGo instead. Here are some benefits of using DuckDuckGo:

  • It doesn’t store your search history.
  • It blocks third-party trackers.
  • It doesn’t create user profiles and does not show personalized ads like Google.
  • It automatically sends you to the HTTPS version of every website.
  • Its search results are unfiltered and not based on your past activities.

We recommend using DuckDuckGo if you’d like to safeguard your online privacy. However, it is not enough on its own. You also need to use a VPN to bolster your security.

If you’re looking for a safe, reliable, and affordable VPN, Surfshark is one of the top options.

Read the full article below to learn more about DuckDuckGo, and why it may be a better option compared to Google.

DuckDuckGo is a privacy-friendly search engine that offers a bit of anonymity in the highly monitored online environment. It doesn’t track your online activities, store, or share user data with third parties. But, it remains unknown to a good percentage of the people who use the internet daily.

When you hear the term “search engine,” you probably think of Google. The tech giant has become synonymous with online search. However, it is notorious for its invasive privacy practices. If you’re concerned about the data that Google collects about you, it is worth checking out DuckDuckGo.

In this article, we compare DuckDuckGo vs. Google, highlighting the safety, performance, and features of this private search engine.

What Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is an internet search engine that prioritizes your online privacy. It was created in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg and has its headquarters in Pennsylvania, the United States. The popular children’s game “Duck, duck goose” inspired the name of this private search engine.

DuckDuckGo is available as a website, and a browser extension for Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera. You can also get the DuckDuckGo app for iOS, Android devices.

In April 2022, DuckDuckGo released a beta version of a macOS browser app. The DuckDuckGo app is built on the Apple WebKit rendering engine, which also powers Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, and other browsers.

Why choose DuckDuckGo?

The fundamental difference between DuckDuckGo vs. Google is that the former doesn’t track, store, or share your information. Although it partners with large online companies like Bing, Wikipedia, and Yahoo, DuckDuckGo does not disclose your personal information to third parties. Its privacy policy protects users from the invasive tracking and data collection that most websites and online companies engage in.

Why is this important? Because your online privacy matters. Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and almost any other website you visit track your online activities and create a detailed profile of you. This profile includes everything from your location and device information to your occupation, interests, family members, browsing history, and more.

The data is used to target you with ads about products and services that you might be interested in. This is why things you search for on Google sometimes appear as ads on every other website or app you use.

Companies are often vague about what information they collect about you, how it is used, and who it is shared with. Fortunately, DuckDuckGo offers a welcome escape from this invasive tracking and advertising.

But, how does DuckDuckGo make a profit?

DuckDuckGo primarily makes its income via advertising and affiliate partnerships. The company has a keyword-based advertising model. So, while DuckDuckGo shows you ads, they aren’t personalized. The ads you see are based on your search term and not your browsing history or personal data.

As part of its affiliate partnerships, DuckDuckGo receives a commission every time you visit sites like Amazon and eBay from its search results page. DuckDuckGo insists that its involvement in affiliate programs does not affect the order of its search results, and it does not exchange any personally identifiable information with its affiliate partners.

To learn more about the differences between DuckDuckGo vs. Google, and get a glimpse into the user experience and features of this privacy-focused search engine, check out the section below.

What is the Difference Between DuckDuckGo and Google?

The main difference between DuckDuckGo and Google is that DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your online activity when displaying search results. DuckDuckGo also has a shortcut feature called !bangs, which allows you to quickly perform searches on other websites such as Amazon, Twitter, or Wikipedia. You can also submit your own custom !bangs for websites you search often.

Of course, DuckDuckGo search doesn’t use any Google products or store your IP address through its service. Its map functionality is provided through Apple Maps. DuckDuckGo also provides “Zero-click Info”, which helps users find the information they’re looking for without needing to click on links.

Less spam, more security

DuckDuckGo tries to remove a lot of the clutter that crowds Google results, including advertisements and spam. It only includes sources with titles and meta descriptions written by humans rather than computers. Official sites are also placed at the top of search results and labelled as such so you can find them more easily.

In their effort to combat spam, DuckDuckGo partnered with Parked Domain Project to crawl the web and eliminate spam from its search results. A lot of these spam websites are still included in Google’s results, but you won’t find them on DuckDuckGo. While Google relies on algorithms to combat spam, DuckDuckGo uses human-powered resources to remove spam websites from its search results.

Should I Start Using DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a great choice if you’re looking for an alternative to Google that provides similar search results without aggressive tracking. Moreover, the ability to see more of the information you’re searching for without clicking through to the website is useful when you just want a quick answer. The interface of the search engine provides the information you’re searching for in a user-friendly way. They provide larger text and clickable areas, making it much easier to use.

If you’ve been using Google for years because you thought it was the only option, you should definitely give DuckDuckGo a chance. You might like it better. Not only is it nice to be able to search online without being tracked, but not having to deal with targeted advertising is a breath of fresh air. Besides that, getting away from all of Google’s services is a welcome change. You might even be surprised how useful the Zero-click Info layout is when using the DuckDuckGo search engine.

The Drawbacks of DuckDuckGo

Map with location arrow

Using DuckDuckGo does come with some limitations, especially when compared to Google. One of these downsides is that it uses Apple Maps and Yelp reviews in its local results. This provides just a fraction of the data that Google does, particularly if you want to find information or reviews about a local business. The number of Yelp reviews is simply much lower than the number of reviews on Google, making it hard to rely on the data given by DuckDuckGo when choosing a business based on reviews.

Another downside of using DuckDuckGo is that it has a lower crawl budget than Google. This means that your search results will likely be less comprehensive than on Google. Some of the advanced features you miss out on when using DuckDuckGo include the “People Also Ask” and “Related Searches” sections on Google. The real-time tracking feature of Google Maps is also absent.

Having your data tracked online can be scary, but does come with certain benefits. A more convenient search engine is better able to predict what you’re trying to find, for example. There’s no doubt that using Google saves time. This conflict between privacy and convenience needs to be balanced. To solve it, many people use a combination both search engines depending on what they need.

How Does DuckDuckGo Protect Your Privacy?

Search engines like Google and Bing store your history on their servers, but DuckDuckGo doesn’t. Using other, less private, search engines often means your information will be stored on their servers remotely.

This information includes the search terms you use, the websites you clicked on, and the date and time you performed the search. They also store data about your IP address and which operating system and browser you use. That’s a lot of information that could be used in whatever way the company decides to use it.

The biggest reason for people to use DuckDuckGo is that it protects your privacy because it doesn’t store any of this data. There are several ways in which DuckDuckGo protects your personal information. We’ve summed up the most important ones below. Check out DuckDuckGo’s privacy page for more information.

No stored search history

Unlike other search engines, DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your search history. This means no one can access your past searches from its servers. However, your browser might still save the pages you visited. This means your search history, while private through DuckDuckGo, could still be available through your browser settings.
Of course, your ISP will also have access to your IP address and search history unless you invest in a VPN to protect yourself while browsing online.

No third-party trackers

Eye on Laptop

DuckDuckGo also attempts to protect your privacy by blocking advertising trackers. These trackers are the reason you may see ads popping up online after you’ve performed a search through Google or Bing. They basically collect information about you through your web browsing history.

Most people are very wary of third-party trackers, because they can be active on a website without you knowing it. They then use your information to try and get you to perform certain actions. This includes buying a product or signing up for a service. Using DuckDuckGo in combination with a reliable VPN is one of the best ways to stay clear of third-party trackers.

No profiles

Most search engines create a profile on you based on your online behavior, search history, age, gender, IP address, and browser cookies. This means your identity can be linked to the sites you visit and the searches you complete on their engines. DuckDuckGo doesn’t create profiles like this, which gives you the added privacy that most other search engines don’t provide.

Encrypted search data

Unlike its competitors, DuckDuckGo will automatically send you on to the HTTPS version of any website you click in their search results. This gives you just that little bit of extra security while browsing online.

Unfiltered results

When you use a search engine for a long time, you may start seeing the same information over and over again. This is because the algorithm is giving you the data it thinks you want to see rather than what everyone else sees when they perform the same search. This filtering could mean that you’re missing out on other information that’s available online.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t store any information that could influence your results page in this way. In other words, you’ll get the same search results as everyone else searching for the same term.

How to Safely Use DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is one of the safest search engines you can use online. Because of its commitment to the privacy of its users, we strongly advise anyone to use it when searching for something online.

If you’re unsure about using DuckDuckGo or want to protect your privacy further, you can always invest in a VPN provider. A VPN will alter your IP address and encrypt your online data, making you more anonymous online. The advantage of using a VPN with DuckDuckGo is that you’ll be able to enjoy the privacy protection of the search engine as well as the flexibility of a VPN to unblock online content from all over the world.

Another reason why using a VPN might be useful, is that it will protect you beyond the reach of any search engine. While the DuckDuckGo website protects your privacy, you’ll be subjected to the policies of any website you might visit once you leave the search engine. A VPN will ensure your personal information and privacy are more secure. Unless you willingly choose to give away your personal information, for example by logging in on a website or by allowing tracking cookies to be placed, neither the websites nor your ISP will know what you’re doing on the internet.

DuckDuckGo Alternatives

While DuckDuckGo offers an improvement on Google when it comes to privacy, it isn’t going to be the perfect search engine for everyone. Just like there are alternatives to Google, such as Bing and Yahoo, there are also other options for people who are looking for private search engines.

Some of the most popular options include Swisscows, Startpage, and Qwant. Each of these search engines provides you with a private browsing experience while protecting their data.

Swisscows

swisscows-logoIf anonymous browsing is a top priority, Swisscows might be a good alternative for you. This lesser-known browser is out of Switzerland. The browser doesn’t track IP addresses or other personal data, unlike the big guys that analyze users’ search behavior and use cookies to track their every move. Swisscows does log some data, the number of daily searches, which helps the company measure data traffic.

The browser has options to search for websites, images, videos, and music, as well as offers a translation option. However, that isn’t a great option for translating compared to other translators available.

Startpage

Startpage claims it’s the world’s most private search engine. It protects its users’ privacy by not storing any personal information. This search engine also doesn’t share information with third parties and has a useful proxy feature that further protects your personal information such as your IP address.

A big advantage of Startpage is that it incorporates Google’s results. This means the Startpage search engine is able to give users a blend of the benefits of a private search engine along with the familiarity of traditional Google results.

Qwant

Qwant Logo

Qwant doesn’t track your searches or store your private information for advertising. This search engine has a feature similar to DuckDuckGo’s !bangs. This feature, Qwick Search, provides you with shortcuts you can use on websites on which you often find yourself using the search function. There are a number of useful filter options you can use while searching with Qwant. These will help you find the right results more quickly.

Conclusion: Privacy Protection at a Cost

The battle between convenience and privacy is an ongoing one for a lot of users of search engines. Should you use Google for the comprehensive results and extra features? Or is it better to work with DuckDuckGo for the privacy it provides? For a lot of people, it’s going to be a mix of both.

While the organic search results for basic queries are going to be similar for both websites, it’s the features that make a difference. This includes real-time traffic updates, more detailed local results, and extra results features.

DuckDuckGo does a lot of things right, especially when it comes to privacy and protecting your data. However, Google has the extra features and bigger crawl budget. Which search engine is best for you, depends on what you prioritize at the time.

How Anonymous Is DuckDuckGo: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have further questions about DuckDuckGo, check out the FAQ section below. Simply click a question to view the answer.

The DuckDuckGo browser is available for both Apple and Android smartphones. Simply search for DuckDuckGo in the App Store/Play Store and download the application.

Once you install it, you’ll be able to use the browser to search on your phone and visit websites. The browser window shows you which third-party trackers it has blocked.

DuckDuckGo currently has a beta version of its browser for macOS. The company may release browsers for other operating systems in the future.

Until then, you can adjust your browser settings so the homepage and search bar are both set to DuckDuckGo.

You can access DuckDuckGo on any browser, but we recommend using a privacy-focused browser like the Tor browser, Firefox, or Brave. You can also use DuckDuckGo’s browser for macOS, which is still in its beta stage.

Some browsers to avoid if you want your personal information to be kept private are Edge, Chrome, Opera, and Safari. These browsers track your search history and collect your personal information as you use them.

You can use any VPN you like with DuckDuckGo, and should probably do so if you’re concerned about your privacy or want more online freedom.

You can set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine in your browser’s settings. You can also adjust the search bar section on your browser, so DuckDuckGo is the default search engine. This means that, each time you enter a search in your browser bar, it’ll go through DuckDuckGo instead of Google or Bing.

While DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your search history, it doesn’t hide it either. You can still access your search history through your browser. There are alternative search engines that hide your search history, such as Search Encrypt.

Using !bangs to search for pages on specific websites is easy. Simply go to the DuckDuckGo search engine and type an exclamation point, followed by a shortcode assigned to the website you wish to search. For Wikipedia, for example, you would type in “!w.” Follow this up with your search term.

Some other popular !bangs shortcodes are:

  • !yt (YouTube)
  • !gmail (Gmail)
  • !gm (Google Maps)
  • !a (Amazon)
  • !reddit (Reddit)

You can submit your own !bangs shortcodes to DuckDuckGo for websites that might be missing from the list.

If you don’t want to see any advertisements in the search results on DuckDuckGo, you can turn ads off in your general settings. This means you’ll see only organic results when you perform a search, instead of the advertisements you’d typically find at the top of the page on Google and other search engines.

Privacy Essentials is an extension by DuckDuckGo that protects your data as you browse online. It does this by blocking hidden trackers and highlighting poor privacy practices. Privacy Essentials also takes you to encrypted versions of websites when possible.

Another feature of this extension is that it includes scores and labels of a website’s terms of service and privacy policies. This feature is possible because of DuckDuckGo’s partnership with Terms of Service Didn’t Read.

Google collects a lot of data about you and your online activities to target you with personalized ads. DuckDuckGo protects you from such invasive privacy practices and does not track your search history or online activities.

If you want to browse more anonymously, use DuckDuckGo instead of Google.

DuckDuckGo does not hide your IP address. It simply doesn’t collect information about you. To hide your IP address, use DuckDuckGo with a good VPN like Surfshark or NordVPN.

DuckDuckGo does not have any trackers that monitor your online activities. However, when you visit individual sites from DuckDuckGo search results, you can be tracked by the websites you’re visiting. To avoid this, use a VPN like Surfshark.

Yes, DuckDuckGo is a safe and privacy-friendly search engine. It does not collect user data and allows you to browse the web anonymously.

No, DuckDuckGo is not owned by Google, Microsoft, or any other big tech company. It was founded by Gabriel Weinberg and is an independent search engine that prioritizes the privacy of its users.

Read our full comparison of DuckDuckGo vs. Google for more information.

Tech writer
Brad is a digital security and marketing specialist with years of hands-on experience working in the industry. He enjoys researching the unblocking and streaming capabilities of VPNs. When he's not working, Brad spends his time with his wife and young daughter. He enjoys reading, playing video games, and baking in his spare time.
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  1. VERY helpful articles!

    One (perhaps entirely naive) question: if one uses DuckDuckGo to access Google, and then search from there, is the DDG advantage lost????

    • Unfortunately, yes. Although DuckDuckGo will help you get rid of some of the tracking and it won’t actively store your search results, the moment you enter Google’s services, Google will. We recommend using DuckDuckGo as your default search engine and only switching to Google for the search results that you can’t find with DuckDuckGo.

  2. How does DuckDuckGo go about censorship?
    Who determines what’s to be censored.

    • Usually, they don’t engage in censorship. The search engine’s primary focus is privacy, but alongside that, they try to give a more nuanced version of search results than Google does – without using collected user data. However, last month, the CEO of DuckDuckGo (Gabriel Weinberg) sent out a tweet in response to the situation in Ukraine, saying that DuckDuckGo would “down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation,” which could be seen as a form of censorship, or at least a way to manually influence search results.

  3. Question: Does duckduckgo include privacy on shopping sites like Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.?

    • The search engine itself doesn’t provide a completely anonymous experience on shopping sites, but it does attempt to protect you by blocking advertising trackers. In other words: if you use (just) DuckDuckGo while browsing, you won’t see personalized ads pop up everywhere after you searched for specific products on those shopping sites. However, the sites themselves can still gather information on you and your behavior while you’re visiting their pages. DuckDuckGo only helps to lessen tracking of third-parties across sites.

  4. Hello, Really great information and website. Thanks for your expertise!

    I’m not a techie but 2021 is ‘RECLAIM MY ONLINE PRIVACY’ year! I have:
    VPN: ExpressVPN (paid for subscription)
    BROWSER: OPERA (tweaked for privacy, no fake opera VPN used, all settings adjusted)
    SEARCH ENGINE: DUCKDUCKGO

    My question is, even though OPERA is not recommended (as it sells my data), is my privacy actually, in fact protected as:
    1 – I search only in DUCKDUCKGO
    2 – My IP is encrypted via ExpressVPN
    3 – I have adjusted OPERAS setting (like you would Google)

    I really like OPERA, but am thinking of FIREFOX as a 2nd browser this week as well.

    Many thanks, sammy

    • Firefox is definitely the better option when it comes to privacy. Opera is a browser we would not recommend, even with the precautions you’re taking. We have an article on what the best browser for privacy is, you could have a look at that here. Brave is a good option, but if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more familiar, Firefox is the way to go.

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