Google remains the most sought after search engine for its sheer ability to answer billions of web queries faster and with more relevant results compared to any of its rivals. According to Netmarketshare, Google has 81.5% of the search engine market share as on September 2019. Despite that Google is falling out of favour with those who value their privacy over convenience. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is one such user who has switched to the more privacy centric DuckDuckGo as his default search engine. In a tweet, Dorsey wrote, "I love @DuckDuckGo. My default search engine for a while now. The app is even better!"
So what is it with Google that is making people uncomfortable and turning them to a lesser known search engine DuckDuckGo, which has a market share of a mere 0.28%, as on September 2019 (Netmarketshare).
At the heart of Google's search engine is the enormous database that it has built based on user searches. Majority of search engines need this user data to train their current algorithms. While this data is essential to the working of Google, the sheer fact that the platform is continuously tracking user activity across all its services so it can show them more personalised results and ads is also making many uncomfortable.
In its privacy page, Google clearly says that it uses the information shared by websites and apps to deliver better services, personalise content and ads for users, develop new services, measure the effectiveness of advertising and protect users from fraud and abuse. So when a user goes to a website that uses Google's advertising service AdSense, analytics tools like Google Analytics, or embeds video content from YouTube, the web browser automatically sends information such as URL of the page, user's IP address to Google, in addition to setting cookies on the browser or to read existing cookies.
Cookies are text files that are automatically saved on users' device by websites. It allows them to remember users' search preferences and to show more relevant ads. To show these ads, many websites allow marketers to embed third party trackers.
Another more intrusive method is called Fingerprinting, which allows advertisers to build unique profiles about users.
According to Princeton's webTap privacy project which evaluated over a million websites, Google has trackers installed on 75% of the top million Internet websites.
Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo neither tracks its users or their IP address, nor does it try to take advantage of the search history. In a nutshell, it has no personal data to sell, so a website or marketer will remain in the dark about user preferences and won't be able to target them with personalised ads based on information gleaned from users' search choices. DuckDuckGo redirects all search requests in a slightly different way. It does not send search terms to other websites, so they will still know what sites where visited by user, but they will not know what search was entered previously.
This is what makes DuckDuckGo a more viable option than Google or even Microsoft's Bing for people who value their privacy above faster search results.
However, using privacy centric platforms like this has its downside too. For instance, in the absence of large amount of data, DuckDuckGo may not be able to offer the same quality experience and its search results may seem poor and often irrelevant compared to Google. This can be frustrating for users looking for quick results.
On issues like fingerprinting, Google announced in August, that it will make it harder for marketers and advertisers to track users across the web by changing how cookies work and allowing users to block cookies.
While the data on users' likes and dislikes are proving a great help for marketers by allowing them to target users with more relevant ads, the possibility of misuse of this data by third parties to manipulate people can't be ruled out. Google added DuckDuckGo as a search engine option in Chrome browser in March.