How anonymous and safe is DuckDuckGo?

How anonymous and safe is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a private search engine. It is adamant about spreading privacy around the internet. However, there is one issue we discovered that raises privacy concerns. Your search terms, while they may be sent over your network in an encrypted form, show up in plain text in browsing history.

DDG may work well for reducing advertiser tracking, avoiding filter bubbles, and limiting data profiling, however as this post explains, it may not offer the protection from surveillance organizations that some think.

DuckDuckGo, along with many other private search engines, saw a massive influx of users after Edward Snowden sparked general interest in privacy, specifically from government surveillance agencies. Snowden endorsed the use of private search tools for their lack of tracking. However, he also endorsed the use of other data protection measures to create a complete privacy suite. Snowden explains that no privacy tool, or system, is perfect. But more privacy is a good thing, across the board, even if it doesn’t quite protect you from all angles.

DuckDuckGo is the primary and anonymous alternative to major search engines, such as Google or Bing, and they do claim to not “collect or share any of your personal information”. I need to point out however that there is no way to know for sure whether that claim is in fact true. As one user pointed out over on Github

While some very paranoid users refuse to use DuckDuckGo due to the above mentioned reasons, there are a couple of reasons why it is by all means still worth using for anonymity:

A lot of people are shocked to learn that websites can still track you even in Chrome’s “Incognito” mode.
Let’s Make the Internet More Private

The truth is that Chrome’s Incognito mode only prevents your browser history from being recorded on your local device and does not offer any additional protection such as preventing the websites you visit from collecting your information (e.g. your searches on a search engine). Check out the fine print.

It is simply a myth that Incognito mode protects your online privacy in any significant way; it is really more of an offline protector. You can easily still be uniquely identified and tracked while using Incognito mode through “browser fingerprinting.” Just as each person has a unique fingerprint, so does every browser. Websites can look at your IP address, version numbers of your browser, the plugins it uses, and dozens of other points of browser information to create a unique ID — a browser fingerprint —that can then be used to track you.

That is, while in Incognito mode, Google is still tracking your searches, and can use them to send intrusive ads at you across the Web on the millions of sites and apps that run Google ads. Sure, your search or browser history won’t be on your computer, but Google still knows it. And when you get served an ad based on that incognito search you did recently (like, let’s say that surprise vacation you were planning), it’s not so private anymore. On the other hand, DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your search history at all, regardless of whether you’re “incognito” or not.