DuckDuckGo launched Tuesday what CEO Gabriel Weinberg called in his blog SpreadPrivacy.com “fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app” designed to block third-party trackers and to make the service easier to use on smartphones.
The updates offer “built-in tracker network blocking, smarter encryption, and, of course, private search” in Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, and Safari “with just one download,” Weinberg writes. DuckDuckGo promises not to store or sell user data, unlike Google and other marketing-advertising-data collection search engines and social-media sites. Ads for companies like Expedia that pop up on its search and affiliate pages aren’t targeted to individual readers, the company says.
Search volume rose for the 10-year-old, Paoli-based internet search site last year, before the mobile upgrades were announced. Still, DuckDuckGo, which employs 45, many of whom work remotely and through the GitHub software development platform, remains a very small fraction of the global search market, which is attractive to advertisers and other behavioral trackers who pay big bucks to know where our eyes go.
DuckDuckGo says it logged more than 16 million queries a day as of the past month, up from 12 million a year earlier. The engine’s share of the U.S. laptop/desktop search market rose to 0.25 percent in December, up from 0.16 percent a year earlier, according to NetMarketShare.com. (Google as of December held more than 70 percent of the laptop/desktop search market, China-based Baidu 15 percent, Microsoft’s Bing 8 percent, Verizon’s Yahoo 5 percent, Russia-based Yandex 1 percent, and Ask.com had slightly more than DuckDuck Go. Dogpile, AOL, and all others were smaller.)
But, despite European Commission for Competition chairman Margarethe Vesteger’s admission to Wired Magazine that she uses DuckDuckGo instead of Google on her own mobile phone to avoid snooping, its share of the mobile market has lagged, rising only to 0.09 percent from 0.06 percent last year. Weinberg hopes to capture more with the new tools.
DuckDuckGo is also rating websites, with school-style “Privacy Grades” from A to F. (Philly.com got a C grade on my DuckDuckGo phone extension; according to its tools, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were all “trying to track me” around the site; they were absent from several other news sites I checked using the app.)
Weinberg writes that DuckDuckGo is more private than Google’s “Incognito” option and simpler than other search services. “Google trackers [are] now lurking behind 76% of pages, Facebook’s trackers on 24% of pages, and countless others soaking up your personal information to follow you with ads around the web, or worse,” Weinberg added. “Our privacy protection will block all the hidden trackers we can find, exposing the major advertising networks tracking you over time, so that you can track who’s trying to track you.”