How Anonymous Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo browser on a computer next to an incognito icon and a magnifying glass
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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. However, 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 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 and 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. DuckDuckGo’s privacy policy protects users from the invasive tracking and data collection that most websites and online companies engage in.

Header of DuckDuckGo's Privacy Policy Page

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.

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.

DuckDuckGo vs. Google: Privacy & Features

DuckDuckGo is a splendid choice if you’re looking for an alternative to Google that provides similar search results without aggressive online tracking.

While the user-friendly interface of the search engine allows you to find any information you’re searching for easily, DuckDuckGo also provides “Zero-click Info.” This feature allows you to access any information you’re looking for without clicking on any link. The information provided by DuckDuckGo’s Zero-click Info feature includes topic summaries, definitions, official websites, images, and other content that satisfies your search query.

The DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser mobile app and Privacy Essentials extension also comes with Global Privacy Control (GPC). GPC is a browser or device setting that automatically notifies websites you visit of your privacy preference. Essentially, it invokes your legal opt out rights, letting websites know that you do not want your data to be sold or shared with third-parties under future legal frameworks like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Since DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your online activities, the search results for any query are the same for every user and are not personalized. This means that you are only shown results related to your current search query and not your profile. This is in contrast to websites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and others that collect your information to show you ads and search results related to your browsing history and online activities.

The main reason many people choose DuckDuckGo is that it doesn’t store any user data. There are several ways DuckDuckGo’s privacy features protect your personal information while also providing high-quality search results. We’ve summed up the most important features of this search engine 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 save a record of the pages you’ve visited — even with Global Privacy Control. So, while your search history may not be available on DuckDuckGo’s servers, it can be accessed through your browser history. You can easily change this in your browser settings.

Internet service providers (ISP) will also have access to your IP address and search history unless you invest in a good VPN to protect yourself while browsing online. A VPN like Surfshark provides end-to-end encryption, allowing you to browse the web anonymously without compromising your privacy, regardless of the websites or online platforms you visit.

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No third-party trackers

Laptop with a crossed out eye iconDuckDuckGo protects your privacy by blocking advertising trackers. These trackers are the reason you may see ads about the latest things you searched for on Google or Bing. Trackers basically gather information about you through your web browsing history.

And yes, trackers are still active even when you access Google using Incognito mode on Chrome or any other browser.

Third-party trackers can be active on a website without you knowing. The purpose of trackers is to gather information about you so advertisers can get you to buy a product or sign up for a service.

In May 2022, after an audit of DuckDuckGo’s mobile browsers, security researcher Zach Edwards revealed that the browser failed to block trackers from sending data to LinkedIn and Bing. The trackers remained active while he was browsing on the website of Workplace, Meta’s online collaboration platform.

In response to the revelation, DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg revealed that the company’s syndication agreement with Microsoft prevents it from blocking Microsoft trackers. However, he emphasized that Microsoft Advertising, which delivers the ads users see on DuckDuckGo, does not deliver ads based on information gleaned by trackers.

“Microsoft Advertising does not associate your ad-click behavior with a user profile,” Weinberg tweeted.

Using DuckDuckGo in combination with a reliable VPN is one of the best ways to steer clear of third-party trackers. It is also advisable to use the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension to continue enjoying its tracker-blocking feature while browsing different websites.

No profiles

Most search engines create a profile of 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. This gives you a certain level of privacy that most other search engines don’t provide.

Encrypted search data

Unlike its competitors, DuckDuckGo offers smarter encryption. It will force sites to use an encrypted connection when available. As a result, DuckDuckGo automatically send you to the HTTPS version of any website you click. This gives you an extra bit of security while browsing online.

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 usually placed at the top of search results and labeled so you can find them more easily.

To combat spam, DuckDuckGo works with the Parked Domain Project to crawl the web and eliminate spam from its search results. A lot of these spam websites are included in Google’s search 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.

Unfiltered results

When you use a search engine for a long time, you may start seeing the same information repetitively in your search results. 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 information that’s available online.

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

!bangs

In terms of functionality, DuckDuckGo performs just as well as Google and has some nifty features to help make searching for things online easier.

For instance, it has a shortcut feature called !bangs, which allows you to quickly perform searches on over 13,000 websites including Amazon, Twitter, and Wikipedia. Suppose you want to search Amazon.com for “cameras.” In that case, you could just enter “!a cameras” into DuckDuckGo and it will bring up the correct search results page on Amazon.com. You can also submit your own custom !bangs for websites you search often.

DuckDuckGo !Bangs

You can enable Safe Search on DuckDuckGo to remove adult content from results. This search engine offers two Safe Search levels, namely Strict and Moderate. There are a few different ways to control Safe Search:

  • Use the dropdown box under the search box on any search results page.
  • Use the “Safe Search” option on the DuckDuckGo settings page.
  • Add “!safeoff” at the start of your search term.
  • Rse safe.duckduckgo.com: searches from safe.duckduckgo.com always have Safe Search set to “Strict.”

Drawbacks of Using DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo’s privacy features are pretty good. But it comes with some limitations compared to Google. Here are some cons of DuckDuckGo vs. Google:

  • It features Apple Maps and Yelp reviews in its local results. As a result, it 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 provided by DuckDuckGo when choosing a business based on reviews.
  • DuckDuckGo has a lower crawl budget than Google. This means that your search results will probably be less comprehensive than what you get 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.

You might also miss the personalization that comes with Google’s online tracking. There’s no question that it is quick and convenient when Google can predict what you’re trying to find.

This conflict between privacy and convenience is hard to balance. One way to address this is by using a combination of two search engines depending on your needs at any given moment.

DuckDuckGo Alternatives

While DuckDuckGo offers better privacy than Google, it may not be the best search engine for everyone. Just like there are alternatives to Google, such as Bing and Yahoo, there are other options for people who are looking for privacy-focused search engines. Here’s an overview of the best alternatives to DuckDuckGo:

Swisscows

SwissCows search engine

If anonymous browsing is your foremost priority, Swisscows is an excellent alternative for you. This lesser-known search engine was created by Hulbee AG, a company that operates out of Switzerland.

The engine doesn’t track IP addresses or other personal data. Swisscows does log some data, like the number of daily searches, which helps the company measure data traffic.

Swisscows gives you the option to search for websites, images, videos, and music. It also offers a translation feature, which is not as good as Google Translate and other online translators.

Startpage

Startpage search engine

Startpage claims to be the world’s most private search engine. It protects its users’ privacy by not storing any personal information or sharing user data with third parties.

Startpage is a Dutch search engine company and has been around since 1998. It has a useful proxy feature that protects your personal information, such as your IP address.

One of the biggest advantages of Startpage is that it incorporates Google Search results into its results. As a result, Startpage offers the safety of private search along with the familiarity of traditional Google results.

Qwant

Qwant search engine

Qwant is a French search engine that doesn’t track your searches or store your private information for advertising purposes.

This search engine has a feature similar to DuckDuckGo’s !bangs. This feature, called Qwick Search, provides you with shortcuts that you can use to search for particular pages on websites.

There are several other useful filter options available on Qwant to help you find the right results quickly.

Conclusion: Boost Your Privacy

DuckDuckGo offers a true private browsing experience, allowing you to search the web anonymously and avoid invasive tracking.

While we recommend making DuckDuckGo your default search engine, it is not enough on its own. You also need to use browsers that protect your privacy as well as a VPN to encrypt your data and hide your IP address. A VPN safeguards your personal information and privacy, offering protection beyond the reach of any search engine.

If you decide to use the Google instead of DuckDuckGo, a VPN can still help you browse the web more privately. If you’d like to try one of the most trusted VPN providers, we highly recommend Surfshark. There are some trustworthy free VPNs, but they do not offer as many features and functionalities as a premium provider.

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 journalist
Mehak has been writing for over a decade and is passionate about helping people have safer, healthier relationships with all things tech. She has a master’s degree in communication and is especially interested in the impact of technology and the internet on global communities.
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  1. One must grant a lot of permissions for DDG’s extension in FireFox. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

    • It’s true that DuckDuckGo asks for access to your data for all websites, browser tabs, and browser activity during navigation. They need these permissions in order to be able to block hidden trackers, encrypt connections, and so on. They still maintain a pretty solid privacy policy and don’t log or share any personally identifiable information about users, but if you’d rather not give them this kind of access, you can always just opt for using only the search engine instead of the extension.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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