Duck Duck Go, the excellent search engine which puts user privacy at the heart of what it does, has launched a new suite of tools which helps protect user’s privacy beyond their search engine.
And in the process, their CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, has launched a scathing attack on the likes of Google and Facebook for their privacy records.
Google and Facebook; the nosy neighbours of the internet
Weinberg has been quoted as saying “Google and Facebook’s impact on our privacy cannot be understated” before going on to make the astonishing claim that “76 percent of websites now contain hidden Google trackers, and 24 percent have hidden Facebook trackers, according to one study.”
When you think about it, that fact may not be so shocking, but the fact that we readily accept such online monitoring is an indictment of the extent to which we have willingly sacrificed our online freedoms.
Writing on the Duck Duck Go blog, Weinberg compares Google and Facebook to an online nosy neighbour. Except that instead of twitching the curtains, they operate “a vast array of highly sophisticated tracker networks” that systematically record everything you do online and then sell the data to the highest bidder.
With a nosy neighbour, you can regain your privacy simple by pulling down the blinds, but with online snooping, the solutions are often seen as being far too complicated for most people to implement. But of course, that is not true. People just need to be aware of the extent of the problem and the simple tools that help tackle it.
One of those tools is undoubtedly Duck Duck Go, which is the most privacy-conscious search engine around and claims to use absolutely no trackers. And the latest releases by Duck Duck Go claim to make that process even simpler.
Duck Duck Go’s brand new features
They have launched new versions of their search engine extension and mobile app, which offer even more privacy-supporting features. As well as using no trackers of their own, the new Duck Duck Go apps offer built-in tracker network blocking, which should help to stop other websites from tracking your online activity too.
And they have also added smarter encryption to their search engine to help protect your browsing activity from other prying eyes too. And there is more. The Duck Duck Go search engine also now grades websites between A and F depending on the level of privacy they offer their visitors.
This means that when users search for a site, they can make an informed decision about whether they want to actually visit that site or not based on its privacy policies. This grade is reached by considering the levels of encryption deployed by the site, the prevalence of hidden tracker networks, and their more general privacy policies.
Duck Duck Go is to be commended for the improvements they have made to what was already an excellent, privacy-conscious search engine. If you are conscious of your online privacy you could do a great deal worse than switching your online activities from Google to Duck Duck Go.
The message certainly seems to be starting to get across to internet users too. At the start of last year, the site celebrated 10 billion individual searches since it began in 2009. The number has now risen to 16 billion, which means they have seen an increase of more than 50% in the last 12 months alone.
Duck Duck Go and a VPN: crucial elements of your online security toolkit
But for all its merits, Duck Duck Go cannot protect your online activities on its own. To do that you need to be deploying other tools as well, most importantly, a Virtual Private Network.
While Duck Duck Go will help you to identify websites that are protected by encryption and will also encrypt your online searches, only a VPN can ensure that everything you do online is encrypted. That is because a VPN redirects all of your online traffic down a secure and encrypted pathway, rather than just encrypting certain activities.
With a VPN, all online data travelling between you and the internet is secure. However, Google can still keep records of your online activity if you are logged into your Google account. Using Duck Duck Go prevents tracking by your search engine and also helps you to make informed choices about which websites to visit.
Awareness of online privacy issues is on the rise and it is encouraging to see that it is not just VPN providers who are pushing back the boundaries. Other companies like Duck Duck Go are also setting an example for the future too.