Worried about privacy? You are not alone. There are millions of people who are worried that their data is being collected and used (sometimes abused) by companies like Facebook. Most of us Google Search as our default search engine. Even Tim Cook feels that Google is the best search engine for Apple users. But there are other search engines that claim to be more private than Google. Let’s see how.
Google Search uses user data and feedback to display targeted search results but protects personal identity using Advertising IDs that are only visible to advertisers. This data is then used to serve ads. More on that later.
DuckDuckGo is not as good a search engine as Google, but it is a privacy-focused browser that will neither collect data nor personalize your search results in any way. Ads are served in real time and affiliate marketing is used to make money.
Let’s take a look at how DuckDuckGo is solving the privacy issue and how it differs from Google Search when it comes to user data.
Also Read: Top Google Chrome Extensions for Privacy
DuckDuckGo vs Google
1. Big Data, Big Money
When you are using Google Chrome on your mobile, by default, it is set to use Google’s search engine. You don’t even have to visit Google.com, just begin typing in the address bar and Google will do the needful. Google tracks your keyword searches, so if I search for the price of MacBook Air which shows a buyer intent, sites I visit after that may have Google ads showing MacBook prices in my local currency. Google also tracks your location so ads are more personalized based on where you live.
It will track your location even in the Incognito mode. Incognito tells your browser not to store any data or history, Google and sites you are visiting can collect and store data including the advertisers who pay top dollars for it. Google even mentions it then and there when you launch Incognito mode. You can’t take screenshots in Incognito on mobile so here is a desktop screenshot. Read.
DuckDuckGo will not track your location or searches. Not only this, the company behind DuckDuckGo says that it will not even look at your IP address. Still, DuckDuckGo, like Google, does show ads but more on that later. In DuckDuckGo, you get an option to toggle location-based search results on which is set to off by default. This makes it easier to manage location settings.
Google is known to build and maintain a profile on every individual. Google has collected data on him/her over the years. A lot of data. You can view your searched and deleted search history, your advertisement profile where Google knows about your hobbies, location, shopping, etc., and every app that you have ever used and has access to your data.
However, this is optional and there is a toggle button to stop ads personalization and tell Google not to share data with advertisers. Google released privacy and security control settings in 2015 that are available under My Account. This is where you can control whether you are shown ads based on your interest/location, what data is associated with your account, and conduct privacy and security checkups.
DuckDuckGo has also partnered with Terms of Service Didn’t Read, a community project, to display ratings and grades for major websites. What’s that? Each site is rated from A to F where factors like hidden trackers, encryption level, privacy policies, and ToS are viewed to come to a score.
This gives you a bird’s eye view of the site in question. You will have to install the DuckDuckGo browser extension to use this feature on desktop, available for all popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
DuckDuckGo also forces every site to use encrypted connections whenever and wherever possible.
Also Read: 5 Best Personal Security Apps for Android
2. The Color of Money
Google makes billions of dollars in advertising revenue through its partner network Adwords. How does it all work? Let’s say an advertiser wants to sell yoga mats. They will bid on keywords related to yoga mats. Now Google knows which of its users are searching for yoga mats or interested in learning yoga.
All of this data is tied to your advertising ID which is unique. Advertisers can see this ID but not the person behind this ID which means your personal identity remains protected. The advertisers know what ‘people’ are searching for but not individual names.
As seen above, you can control Web & App Activity and location tracking in Chrome >Settings >Google Activity Controls. It’s just that few people know how to control these settings, or where they are.
Moving on with our example, the advertiser with the highest bid wins the ad slot. This is where your data comes into the picture. Advertisers use this data to determine which ads should be displayed to whom and when. As discussed earlier, you may choose to opt out. Google will then stop sharing your advertising ID with third-parties.
You must be wondering how DuckDuckGo makes money if it claims to not collect any user data.
DuckDuckGo displays ads based on the keyword that you just search for. It will not collect and store your data. It works on a real-time basis and there is nothing stored in your profile. In fact, there is no profile. Another way DuckDuckGo makes money is by affiliate marketing. The products tab you see above will only be visible when you search for a product or a service. Otherwise, it will stay hidden saving space and reducing distraction.
If you buy a MacBook from Amazon by visiting the site using their search engine, DuckDuckGo gets a commission. You don’t pay anything extra which is a win-win situation. This privacy-centric approach of DuckDuckGo is helping the search engine grow, slowly, but steadily.
Note that you can disable ads if you want in the settings.
3. Supported Platforms
This is where Google Search takes the lead because it is the default search engine for Chrome, one of the most popular browsers in the world. Chrome is available for download on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux. DuckDuckGo has dedicated browser apps for only Android and iOS platform. If you want to use DuckDuckGo on Windows or Mac, you will have to visit the site using Chrome or any other browser of your choice.
Even if you do use Chrome to open DuckDuckGo, it still protects you from third-parties that are looking to collect data. I wish DuckDuckGo had dedicated apps for Windows and Mac users too. That would not only increase their user base but make it more private as users wouldn’t have to use a third-party browser. If you want, I would suggest you use either TOR or Firefox here which are not owned by any major corporation and focus on the privacy of the users.
Google vs. DuckDuckGo Search Engine
Google collects user data but offers targeted search results and still protects your identity. You can control what you share with advertisers.
DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect any data but makes money with affiliate marketing and ads that are based on current keywords and not past searches or user history.
When you are using a web browser, you are sharing a lot of information like your medical needs, financial position, secrets you don’t want anyone to know, embarrassing searches that you wished no one discovered, location, and so on. You need to decide which data you can afford to share, and what needs to stay private. Privacy is your right, don’t lose it.
Let us know in the comments which search engine are you using and why.