Google’s Watching You, and DuckDuckGo Wants To Help

DuckDuckGo is one of the most private and transparent search engines available and has multiple features available to give you back your online privacy.
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It’s happened to all of us: You Google something in your web browser, and then you see a very specific ad about that same thing. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. But did you know that most companies are tracking your online activity?

There’s a large profile of you that sites, such as Google, Facebook, and others use to show you targeted ads. Private search engines, such as DuckDuckGo want to stop that by offering privacy protection.

Not only do private search engines help reduce your digital footprint, but they also help you find unbiased search results. This is because they offer up content based on what you’re searching for and not based on an aggregated profile of you. It gives you back control of the information you encounter rather than being fed a curated profile of what a tech company thinks you want or need.

But is DuckDuckGo safe and how does it work? And can you actually trust a private search engine?

In this article
What is DuckDuckGo?
How does the DuckDuckGo search engine work?
Is DuckDuckGo safe to use?
When should you use DuckDuckGo?
Is DuckDuckGo a better search engine than Google?
6 tips for using safe search engines like DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo search engine FAQs
Bottom line: Is DuckDuckGo safe?

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a private search engine founded by Gabriel Weinberg in 2008. Its goal is to help keep you anonymous online. It labels itself as an “internet privacy company” with features like Instant Answers and Keyboard Shortcuts in addition to your regular search needs. It’s even testing out a beta feature in Android to help with app tracking on your mobile device.

DuckDuckGo’s premise is simple: your online activity isn’t tracked across the web and collated to create a profile of you.

The company does use ads, but those ads are based on your search history and have no personal information tied to them. Once you close your browser, anything stored is deleted.

DuckDuckGo also uses affiliate codes to collect revenue on items you may purchase using its search. These codes are from third parties and include no personally identifiable information.

What’s a private search engine?

Private search engines allow you to search the internet without being tracked.

When you use a search engine, such as Google, your data is collected and used to create a profile of you. While Google doesn’t sell your data, data brokers do.

Data brokers collect your information from across the internet and exchange it for money from anyone who wants an online profile of you. While this isn’t a direct result of Google’s data mining, the profiles it builds and shares with other data miners, such as Facebook contribute to data broker sites.

Using a private search engine helps reduce the amount of information about you that’s floating around. Instead of giving the data brokers free information, a private search engine protects you because your personal information simply isn’t collected.

How does the DuckDuckGo search engine work?

DuckDuckGo works by not tying your search history to personally identifiable information. This means that it might aggregate your search information while you have the browser open, but there’s nothing like your IP address or a browser cookie that links what’s been searched to who searched it.

No storing search history

DuckDuckGo does not log your data, your searches, or use browser cookies to tie search data to you.

Privacy controls

DuckDuckGo offers several features that allow you to customize your searches. You can omit adult material, automatically open instant answers, and toggle autocomplete suggestions off or on. There’s even the ability to turn off ads.

Tracker blocker

The tracker blocker stops tracking from advertisers on sites you visit. It also uses encryption that then forces the sites to encrypt your traffic.

Ad blocker

DuckDuckGo’s third-party Tracker Loading Protection blocks ads automatically so you don’t have to install anything else. But you can still use some of the best ad blockers for extra online privacy.

Do Not Track setting

No additional settings are required when using DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t track you. Currently, there is a beta feature for the Android product, called App Tracking Protection, that keeps apps from tracking you on your Android devices.

HTTPS site encryption

Data like your IP address and location can be leaked by your search engine when you click on a page after your search. DuckDuckGo uses encryption methods to redirect your search so those websites can’t log your data.

Website privacy grades

DuckDuckGo evaluates the trackers on a website and then warns you. This helps you make more informed decisions about the websites you visit.

Fire button

The Fire button allows you to erase little bits of data from all over the web. This can include cookies, caches, back button history, and permissions that might give sites access to your geolocation, webcam, and microphone control.

Is DuckDuckGo safe to use?

Yes. The DuckDuckGo privacy policy is transparent and it’s used as the Tor Browser’s built-in search engine, meaning this private search engine has some serious security chops.

Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, discovered that Demand Media, the owner of sites, such as, was harvesting data as well as buying up sites for legitimate businesses and redirecting traffic to its own content. Weinberg told MIT’s Technology Review that knowledge pushed him over the edge.[1] DuckDuckGo’s search tools were born from this revelation.

While DuckDuckGo has taken great strides toward guarding privacy, there are some downfalls. You’ll still see ads, but they’re based on search results and not tied to you or your personal data. Also, DuckDuckGo offers bangs as search shortcuts. If you use them, they completely negate any security using DuckDuckGo provides.

When should you use DuckDuckGo?

Honestly, DuckDuckGo can be used at any time and helps reduce the amount of internet clutter you see and experience.

Making DuckDuckGo your default search engine can enhance your browsing experience by offering private browsing. You can enter search terms directly on the website,, or by installing the tools for your specific device or browser. The following are compatible, and a DuckDuckGo desktop app for Mac is currently in beta:


  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Internet Explorer (if you still use it)
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera
  • Brave, Tor Browser, Vivaldi, and other browsers
  • Linux distributions
  • Thunderbird


  • iOS (mobile browser app)
  • Safari
  • Android (browser app)
  • Firefox mobile
  • Windows phone
  • BlackBerry
  • UC Browser
  • Brave for mobile

Is DuckDuckGo a better search engine than Google?

DuckDuckGo is better than Google Search because it doesn’t gather and store information about you the way Google does. Even if you use Incognito Mode in Google, it’s still collecting and storing all data, including all your searches. Additionally, DuckDuckGo filters out Made-for-Adsense sites, or sites made specifically for ads that have very low-value content, if they have content at all.

While DuckDuckGo still shows ads, they’re based on search results and aren’t permanently attached to you. This means DuckDuckGo is also not selling user data for profit. DuckDuckGo also has built-in protections against malicious sites that keep you from accessing them and possibly contracting malware onto your device.

DuckDuckGo vs. Google pros and cons

Search engine DuckDuckGo Google
  • No cookies used by default
  • Built-in protections
  • More sites indexed than any other search engine
  • Name and product recognition
  • Ads still appear
  • Collects a lot of personal data

6 tips for using safe search engines like DuckDuckGo

  1. Be careful using bangs. The shortcut will take you directly to the website but can compromise privacy through search leakage.
  2. Use a VPN as well. While DuckDuckGo hides your search history, people on your network, your internet service provider (ISP), and general snoopers may still see your traffic. A VPN hides your traffic and adds an additional layer of encryption.
  3. End browsing sessions with the Fire button. Utilize this tool to wipe any residue from your browsing history.
  4. Download the DuckDuckGo mobile app from the Apple or Google Play store.
  5. Use DuckDuckGo with Tor for end-to-end privacy. DuckDuckGo operates its own Tor exit enclave, which means it connects directly to the Tor Browser without routing through a third party.
  6. Make sure you’re using the most updated version of your security software. The best antivirus software can help keep adware and trackers off your device.

DuckDuckGo search engine FAQs


How does DuckDuckGo make money?

DuckDuckGo makes money through advertisers and affiliate codes on ecommerce sites. The privacy policy clearly states that information on you is not gathered and used to earn this income.


Is DuckDuckGo free?

Yes, DuckDuckGo is free to use. On its website, DuckDuckGo touts itself as a “free all-in-one privacy solution.”


Who owns DuckDuckGo?

Gabriel Weinberg is the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo. He is an MIT graduate who currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.

Bottom line: Is DuckDuckGo safe?

Yes, DuckDuckGo is safe to use, especially if you’ve previously been using Google or Yahoo to conduct your searches.

In May of 2022, founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg addressed concerns that DuckDuckGo still allowed Microsoft trackers in its browser (not in the regular search) due to an agreement with Microsoft. The company continues to push back against Microsoft to eliminate these trackers as well as continuing to be transparent with the public about the agreements. In August 2022, DuckDuckGo announced it would block Microsoft trackers by the end of the month.

This means, given the transparency of the company, the plain language privacy policy, and the continued work to improve operations, DuckDuckGo is one of the safest browsers you can use. Not only does it reinforce its commitment to not tracking you, but it also publishes quarterly updates on what’s new.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.


[1] The Search Engine Backlash Against ‘Content Mills’