Is DuckDuckGo Safe? Everything You Need to Know

Like most tech-savvy, you’ll have heard of the search engine DuckDuckGo. People talk about it because it’s supposed to be a safer search engine, but is it?

The power of tech companies like Meta and Alphabet is huge – Facebook has nearly 3 billion monthly users, and Google has over 92% of the search market share. If you would rather your browsing not be tracked and habits sold to the biggest advertiser, you need to look elsewhere.

To help you understand if DuckDuckGo is the safe solution you’ve heard it is, we’re going to look at:

• What DuckDuckGo actually is;
• How it stacks up against Google;
• How safe DuckDuckGo is.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo began life as a search engine in 2008, and the business decided to do away with tracking its users in 2010.

It positions itself as a safer alternative to Google; your activity is tracked, so you can’t be served ads around the internet based on the words you search or the sites you visit.

Is DuckDuckGo safe?

DuckDuckGo is safe in terms of data privacy, yes. Nothing you do is being tracked, so there are no databases for hackers to access or for nefarious government agencies to demand access to.

However, no website is completely secure. There is still a possibility that you could get a virus or malware through sites you find on DuckDuckGo. Also, without encrypting your connection, through a VPN, for example, there are other ways that someone could track your online activity.

Why should I use DuckDuckGo instead of Google?

If your main concerns are protecting your data and making sure no one can see what you search for online, you should be using DuckDuckGo instead of Google.

Lots of people object to Google storing and analyzing their data in order to be served ads. It can lead to assumptions being made about them and getting targeted with ads that might feel too personal or actually end up being irrelevant. DuckDuckGo doesn’t do this.

You might also want to disconnect your work search from your personal search history. When you don’t want your day job searches to be mixed up with what you actually care about, using DuckDuckGo for work-related searching is a smart idea.

The pros and cons of DuckDuckGo

As we’ve seen, there are good and not-so-great points about DuckDuckGo. It depends on what you want from your search engine as to whether it’s going to work for you. Here’s our summary of the plus and minus points to help you make a decision.

The pros of DuckDuckGo

• Your browsing history isn’t tracked or stored;
• You don’t get served ads based on assumptions about your searches;
• Your data can’t get hacked, because there isn’t any.

The cons of DuckDuckGo

• You’ll still get served ads, but they will be less relevant to you;
• It’s not a catchall solution to stay safe online, you still need other tools;
• There’s no autocomplete or “People also ask” sections.

Does DuckDuckGo track you?

The main selling point of DuckDuckGo is that it doesn’t track you. However, the company has come under some criticism for how it treats Microsoft trackers.

DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg confirmed in May 2022 that Microsoft trackers were treated differently to other companies because of the commercial deal the two companies have.

Whether you’re happy that a small amount of your data, such as potential ad clicks, is able to be seen by Microsoft companies like LinkedIn and Bing will be up to you.

Is DuckDuckGo safe from viruses?

Computer viruses come in all different versions and types, usually completely unrelated to search engines. When people ask “is DuckDuckGo safe?”, they’re generally asking about being safe from trackers, cookies, and targeted ads.

Unfortunately, there is little that DuckDuckGo – or any search engine – can do to completely protect you from viruses; or malware, or spyware for that matter.

This means the results you get when you search on DuckDuckGo can still lead you to a site where you can end up clicking on dodgy things. You’ll have to use your online common sense to protect yourself and use other defenses such as:

• A VPN to mask your location from hackers and encrypt your connection;
• Antivirus software that can scan all the data that is on your computer;
• A firewall that monitors everything going in and out of your computer.

Should I use DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a browser for people who are concerned about online security. You can be relatively sure that your browsing data isn’t being shared – although be aware of the company’s deals with Microsoft.

There is no database of your history that can be hacked or that a government can demand access to. This prevents personalized ads, which you may find very useful, although you could get annoyed seeing ads that have zero relevance to you, too.

You can’t protect yourself from every online threat by simply using DuckDuckGo, but it is a useful addition to your online security toolbox to make sure your data is less susceptible to hacking, tracking, and generally negative online activities.

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