DuckDuckGo is an excellent search engine if you want to minimize ads targeted at you based on your search terms. However, calling DuckDuckGo a true “private search engine” is a stretch. The problem with DuckDuckGo is that it leaves openings for your search terms to leak, even if you believe that DDG is keeping them private.
DuckDuckGo’s Illusion of Privacy
DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you. That’s one of the company’s primary value propositions.
In a Quora post from Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo’s CEO and Founder, he says that DuckDuckGo “empowers you to seamlessly take control of your personal information online, without any tradeoffs.” Unfortunately, it appears DuckDuckGo often puts convenience over privacy, which ultimately is the same trap that Google’s search engine falls into.
Bangs Aren’t Private
DuckDuckGo’s Bangs, which allows you to search other websites from DuckDuckGo are an issue. Many people assume that since they are using DuckDuckGo, they’re able to search whichever website they want without suffering the privacy consequences. This isn’t true.
Bangs may let you search from DuckDuckGo, but if you use the Google Bang, you are basically just searching Google. In this case, DuckDuckGo offers zero privacy protection.
Read More: Why Does DuckDuckGo Offer a Google Bang?
DuckDuckGo’s Browser History Problem
In a blog post on DuckDuckGo’s blog, the company claims, “each time you search on DuckDuckGo, you have a blank search history, as if you’ve never been there before.” This claim is misleading because of what we consider to be DuckDuckGo’s biggest privacy flaw. When you search with DuckDuckGo, your search terms appear both in your search URL and in your browser history.
While DuckDuckGo wants you to be able to search without being tracked, it’s irresponsible for the company to call itself a private search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you like Google does, but it needs to do a better job of disclosing how it actually protects its users’ search privacy.
Read More: I Found This Flaw in DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo Has a Responsibility To Inform Its Users
DuckDuckGo is privacy-friendly BUT…since your search terms show up in your URL and in your browsing history, anyone monitoring your network traffic or on your computer can easily see what you searched for. Whenever we express concern about this, we’re often met with claims that this is for convenience sake and is easily turned off in DuckDuckGo’s settings.
It’s irresponsible to assume that people know that their search terms aren’t actually private. Users without advanced technical know-how may not know how to change their settings in DuckDuckGo to have the highest possible privacy settings. If these users don’t understand that their search terms still show up in their browsing history, it could lead to some awkward situations.