Some time ago, humanity placed its information-based faith in internet search engines. Gone were the days of physical encyclopedia sets and trips to the library in your neighborhood. Why bother when you could simply type a search term into your computer and have the answer you were looking for in an instant. Google (GOOG), a search-engine so famous that the very name of the company became a verb included in the Oxford English Dictionary, has come to be the authority on how we consume every piece of information that impacts our lives and the lives of others. But amidst that consumption, we became ignorant to the possibility that while we fed on google searches, we were nourishing the beast with our personal data. 

In August, the Associated Press (AP) discovered that Google (GOOG) still had the ability to track a person’s location data even if they indicated on their privacy settings that they wanted to disable the search engine from doing so. The AP report goes on to explain that while Google’s support page states “you can turn off Location History..and the places you go are no longer stored,” IOS/Android apps that provide you with daily weather updates pinpoint exactly where you are in the world. This presents a very real, very disconcerting privacy issue for the two billion Google (GOOG) Android users and the hundreds of millions of worldwide users who depend on the company’s search engine and map application. In September, alone, Google reportedly powered over 86% of desktop searches worldwide, according to Statista. 

All things considered, tech giants like Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), and Twitter (TWTR) profit from their user data, and quite frankly, investors and the users, themselves, are not picking up what these companies are throwing down. Perhaps it is time for a new search engine, a new verb for the OED.

Enter DuckDuckGo, the self-proclaimed “search engine that doesn’t track you.” According to their landing page, the site simply wants to help users find the information they’re searching for. As for the company’s privacy policy, the site plainly states “we don’t collect or share any of your personal information.” Just last month, the site hit 30 million daily searches, up from its record of 20 million searches back in 2017. Reports from Search Engine Journal pointed out the interesting irony that DuckDuckGo’s daily search record occurred days after news arose of Google’s data breach for some 500,000 of its users. 

DuckDuckGo’s Founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg expressed his excitement of the daily search statistics in a blog post: 

“DuckDuckGo has been a profitable company since 2014 without storing or sharing any personal information on people using our search engine. As we like to say, what you search on DuckDuckGo is private, even from us!”

Gabriel Weinberg, Founder, and CEO, DuckDuckGo

In terms of monetizing the site, DuckDuckGo makes its revenue through keyword-based advertising. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Colorado to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, and know that it’ll be colder than wherever you’re coming from. When you type and search the word, ‘jacket,’ an advertising banner will show paid-for jacket ads from companies who work with DuckDuckGo. In the case of Google (GOOG), they use the same model for revenue, but Google (GOOG) continues to gather data as you travel from one website to the next. Weinberg strongly believes that “using the internet doesn’t have to feel like you’re being watched, listened to, and monitored.” 

The alternative search engine’s growing market share indicates that more and more users are concerned for the safety and security of their data, and like Weinberg explained, just want to use the internet without feeling watched. In August, the pro-privacy search engine grabbed a cool $10 million in the second round of funding from Canadian VC firm OMERS Ventures. The firm lauded DuckDuckGo in their investment announcement, going on to say that data security has “risen to the forefront of public consciousness” and it’s time to “start taking real action.” 

As more and more users recognize how major social platforms and search engines manipulate and sell off their data, they will flock to sites like DuckDuckGo who simply want to give users what they’re searching for. 

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