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I Found This Flaw in DuckDuckGo

Is DuckDuckGo Actually the Most Private Search Engine?

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.

Forward Secrecy on a Local Level

While DuckDuckGo may not track my searches or link them to my personal information, this is a clear lack of privacy. As a private search engine, DuckDuckGo gives the expectation of privacy. But anyone with access to your computer can view your searches, in plain-text in your browsing history. If any user, or person with access to my computer, can view my search history, there is a clear conflict with the privacy claims that DDG delivers.

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By comparison, StartPage and Search Encrypt don’t display search terms in your history. If you try to go to the links in your history, you will be returned to the search engine’s homepage. That is not the case for DuckDuckGo and Google, which take you right back to the results you were viewing before.

This may seem like a minor issue, because users could just clear their history. However, privacy by design means that the most private settings are enabled by default. This extra step makes privacy inconvenient, and the product less user friendly. Privacy by design is essential, especially for privacy based products. The expectation of private search engines is that they deliver on their privacy promises, in this case, DuckDuckGo has failed.

DuckDuckGo Doesn’t Keep Your Searches Completely Private — Is DuckDuckGo Actually Private? 👇


DuckDuckGo’s Bangs Don’t Protect Your Privacy

One of DuckDuckGo’s features that many of its users find attractive is “bangs”. These are like shortcuts that you can use to search other websites directly from DuckDuckGo. Say, for example, you want to search for something on Amazon, you can do so directly from the search engine rather than having to navigate to Amazon first by typing ‘!’ and then selecting Amazon.

Unfortunately the functionality of “bangs” is often misrepresented and misunderstood. There is an expectation of privacy when using DuckDuckGo. Bangs are represented as a way to search other websites on the internet with the “privacy protection” of DDG, but this is not the case. If you use DuckDuckGo and use bangs to search Google, there is no additional privacy protection. This is the same as going directly to Google and searching from there. Google can still track your search and the metadata associated with it.

It’s confusing to us why DuckDuckGo, if it’s focused on privacy would provide a tool that directly takes people away from a private environment back into Google’s data collection. There is no warning message or prompt that let’s users know that using bangs redirects them to sites that track their data. If DuckDuckGo is going to carry the name of a “private” search engine, they should put that into practice from end-to-end and not just selectively.

DuckDuckGo Review

DuckDuckGo has a well-established hold on the “private search” market. Its users are extremely loyal to the private search engine. It is feature rich for a privacy-focused tool, which not a lot of privacy tools are. It has a sleek and modern feeling design which makes for a user-friendly experience. All of this is great but it’s still not Google. Google is superior in almost every way, except that Google tracks you and your searches. However, since DuckDuckGo has these privacy flaws, it’s just not worth switching from Google.

While DuckDuckGo is certainly another option for searching the web, it is not a totally private search engine. It has some privacy protection measures in place, but you should be able to trust that DuckDuckGo will protect your privacy, since their company is based around it. As a result, you can either trust Google’s extremely advanced security or put your privacy in the hands of DuckDuckGo which has overlooked a few key points. When it comes to private search engines, DuckDuckGo is another option, but is not the best. Search Encrypt and StartPage both use much more advanced encryption measures and they are enabled by default.

DuckDuckGo Blocked? Use Other, Unblocked Search Engines

Sometimes a school or business network will block DuckDuckGo because there is a misconception that if you’re using a privacy-based search engine you’re likely looking up things you shouldn’t. While people familiar with the importance of privacy see the issue, schools and businesses choose to block DuckDuckGo. Your school may see DuckDuckGo as a way to get around their content filters. If your school blocks DuckDuckGo, you should check to see if other private search engines are also blocked. In many cases, alternatives to DuckDuckGo are still accessible.

Using DuckDuckGo? Try Search Encrypt Instead.

If you’re using DuckDuckGo because you’re concerned about keeping your searches private, it probably isn’t the best choice. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your search terms to create data profiles about you, but it doesn’t use the level of encryption that we do. Search Encrypt is a private search engine and has some of the industry’s leading encryption measures. There are too many great privacy-friendly products available to use just mediocre or incomplete tools. There are many alternatives to Google and DuckDuckGo that offer more complete and responsible privacy protection.

View Original Post 👇


Originally published at choosetoencrypt.com on March 28, 2018.

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