Searching for Privacy in an Online World

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Gabriel Weinberg didn't start off as a privacy warrior. The 33-year-old founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo just wanted to build a better search engine, something more useful than Google which, he believed, was "becoming bogged down by spam and irrelevant search results."


Along the way, Weinberg was confronted with the decision about what to do with his users' search information...

What Weinberg found surprised him.

"If you think about it, a search engine is the first place you go if you have a serious problem, like a medical diagnosis. People type in their problems. It's kind of creepy for a search engine to know so much about you."

"I also found that users' search histories were being handed over to government and law enforcement agencies. And beyond the government, there's a commercial equivalent of mass surveillance that people find annoying. Think of all the ads following you around the Internet and targeting you all the time. There's even stuff a lot of people don't know about yet like companies charging you higher prices based on your data profile, which shows that you shop in higher end stores. If you can believe it, you can sit right next to someone, go to the same website and get a different quoted price for an item!"

...Weinberg's search engine doesn't keep any personally identifiable information. DuckDuckGo doesn't identify users with cookies, and deletes user agents and IP addresses from its server logs. According to its privacy page, the site doesn't attempt to generate a so-called anonymized identifier to tie searches together. In other words, DuckDuckGo has no way of even knowing whether two searches came from the same computer.

"My whole thing was, 'How do you make a better search experience?' My thought was you don't need to track people to make money in web search. And you don't need to track people to make better results. So why track people at all?"

..."In addition to great privacy, the site gets you great results. Less clutter and less spam."

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