Last June I wrote How Much Privacy Do I Have? DuckDuckGo Gives More, describing how I am using the DuckDuckGo search engine for most of my online inquiries. Interestingly after six months using the alternative, I’ve made some observations and noticed some changes. I’m so glad that I switched.
Check out what I’ve learned below.
- The Google Dashboard, which keeps track of our activities as we use Google apps now shows no searches. This pleases me because it used to list lots and lots of them. If you’ve never checked out your Google Dashboard, it’s worth a visit. Go to https://myaccount.google.com/dashboard and log in with your Google credentials.
- Not only does DuckDuckGo not collect and evaluate my searches to get data, but it also does not track me. This can get iffy, however, because the various sites that you visit often use dozens of trackers to learn what you do or don’t do. But that’s not the fault of DuckDuckGo.
- To keep track of data trackers use I the Ghostery extension to tell me what each site is using to collect data and check on me. The extension lets me turn trackers on and off as I feel necessary, though sometimes features on a web page won’t work and I have to figure out what to turn on. It’s pretty amazing to see Ghostery’s purple box listing all the trackers that it’s found each time I visit a website — even if they are turned off, Ghostery lists them for you to see. It’s also possible to turn off certain trackers and to white list certain sites and let all of the data trackers work
- On my iPhone I did not need to download the DuckDuckGo app after all, because I was able to set my Safari app to default to DuckDuckGo.
- I can also direct Safari to use DuckDuckGo on my MacBook. Firefox users can also set their browsers to use “the Duck.”
- Occasionally I’ve made a search in DuckDuckGo and then, when clicking around in the results, I’ve ended up in Google. This still does not seem to leave any data in the dashboard.
- Because I use Gmail, quite a few of my images end up with notations in the dashboard. This has lessened with DuckDuckGo, and I delete those that show up as often as possible. I am going to switch to a more secure email program for my online purchases, even if I have to pay for it, but I have not done so yet.
You can take a tour at the DuckDuckGo site. Also, read the page that explains — in great detail — why you should care about privacy when you search.
- I have learned about “search leakage” and how to prevent it. You should too.
- Check out this DuckDuckGo video, There Are No Regular Searches Anymore. It explains how Google results vary from person to person — when the same search terms are used in the same order — based instead on what Google knows about the information that Google has collected about an individual. This is why some people search and get the New York Times and others search with the exact same words and get Fox News. Given the discussion in the world today about the bubbles that we live in or choose to live in, it’s somewhat concerning that the Google search algorithm intensifies the problem by giving us search results that attempt based on what we might want rather than straight results.
Knowing how to search intelligently is an important 21st Century literacy skill. Doing it with the privacy that we wish for is a 21st Century right.