Unlike other search engines, Duck Duck Go doesn’t track your searches. You’ll see advertising based on your search terms, but they don’t relate back to earlier searches. Nor are they based on your recent web activity elsewhere.
This is a different business model to Google which attempts to build profiles based on your activity. Google doesn’t just track your searches; its tentacles are everywhere. By some estimates three-quarters of all websites report your habits back to Google.
This explains why some advertisements stalk you as you navigate the web. It can be surreal.
While a lot of people don’t care about privacy in this way, others are concerned.
The vast amounts of data Google collects are enough to identify an individual. Thanks to the ability to read most emails, Google knows where you live, what you do and can make assumptions about how much money you earn, what you spend and who you vote for.
Away from privacy, this approach has another advantage. Because Google thinks it knows about you and what you want, it uses your profile to send customised search results your way.
This can be useful. It can also be a problem. It means Google searches are not neutral. If two people search for a certain term, the may not both get the same answers.
This isn’t always helpful. You might want the best quality information, not what Google think’s you’d like to see. There’s no way of knowing that Google’s filters give you the best. With Duck Duck Go everyone would see the same result.
Duck Duck Go tricks
The search engine has a couple of help tricks up its sleeve. Let’s say you want to know more about someone you meet on Twitter. Type their address into the search bar and you get their profile.
If there is a weakness, sometimes there is not enough depth of coverage. In particular, it doesn’t do a great job of finding New Zealand-specific material.
This hasn’t changed, or if it has changed, it hasn’t changed enough. It can still be frustrating to use at times. You may need to switch back to Google to handle a specific search.
Away from New Zealand searches, Duck Duck Go does well enough. It is better than before.
Google often seems to be more interested in delivering users to sales outlets than information. Duck Duck Go doesn’t have a news filter, so a search can mean wading through lots of sales sites to find more independent information. It would be great if a news search was an option.
What the search engine does have is something called bangs. This is a shorthand way of restricting a search to a single site or organisation. So, to look on Bloomberg for information about SDNs, type:
!blmb software defined networks
This doesn’t always work. The search above drew a blank. Trying the same search using The Economist bang, the browser couldn’t open anything, not even a 404 page.
Duck Duck Go still isn’t the best choice for most searches, but it is a more private choice.