• DuckDuckGo, based in Pennsylvania, does not  share user data with sites
  • This means fewer advertisements and results  that are not skewed for users
  • Firm saw web traffic double in the wake of  Snowden NSA tapping leak

By  Helen Collis

PUBLISHED: 03:43 EST, 11  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 10:44 EST, 11 July 2013

Web-users who want to protect their privacy  have been switching to a small unheard of search engine in the wake of the  ‘Prism’ revelations.

DuckDuckGo, the little known U.S. company,  sets itself aside from its giant competitors such as Google and Yahoo, by not  sharing any of its clients’ data with searched websites. This means no targeted  advertising and no skewed search results.

Aside from the reduced ads, this unbiased and  private approach to using the internet is appealing to users angered at the news  that U.S. and UK governments (the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S. and  GCHQ in the UK), have direct access to the servers of big search engine  companies, allowing them to ‘watch’ users.

At just 33, DuckDuckGo founder and CEO, Gabriel Weinberg has tapped into a niche market - offering Internet users real privacy when searching the world wide web 

At just 33, DuckDuckGo founder and CEO, Gabriel Weinberg  has tapped into a niche market – offering Internet users real privacy when  searching the world wide web

Within just two weeks of the NSA’s operations  being leaked by former employee Edward Snowden, DuckDuckGo’s traffic had doubled  – from serving 1.7million searches a day, to 3million.

‘We started seeing an increase right when the  story broke, before we were covered in the press,’ said Gabriel Weinberg,  founder and CEO, speaking to The  Guardian.

Entrepreneur Mr Weinberg had the idea for the  company in 2006,  while taking time out to do a stained-glass making  course. He had just sold successful start-up Opobox, similar to Friends  Reunited, for $10million (£6.76million) to Classmates.com.

 

While on the course he realised that the  teacher’s ‘useful web links’ did not tally up with Google’s search results, and  realised the extent of the personalised skewing of results per user.

From there he had the idea to develop a  ‘better’ search engine, that does not share any user information with any  websites whatsoever.

Search data, he told the paper, ‘is arguably  the most personal data people are entering into anything. You’re typing in your  problems, your desires. It’s not the same as things you post publicly on a  social network.’

DuckDuckGo, named after an American  children’s tag game Duck Duck Goose (though not a metaphor), was solo-founded by  Mr Weinberg in 2008, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

He self-funded it until 2011 when Union  Square Ventures, which also backs Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Kickstarter,  and a handful of angel investors, came on board.

Leak impact: It appears to some, privacy really does matter 

Leak impact: It appears to some, privacy really does  matter, as DuckDuckGo’s user-figures show. Just two weeks after the June 6  revelations, searchers were up 90 per cent

The team  has expanded to a few  full-time people, many part-time contributors and a bunch of open-source  contributors.

‘If you’re wondering how you would turn that  into a verb…Duck it!’ he says on the company website.

The 33-year-old CEO, who lives in Paoli, a  suburb of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two children, explains that when  other search engines are used, your search terms are sent to that site you  clicked on; this sharing of information is known as ‘search leakage’.

‘For example, when you search for something  private, you are sharing that private search not only with your search engine,  but also with all the sites that you clicked on (for that search),’ he points  out on his website.

‘In addition, when you visit any site, your  computer automatically sends information about it to that site (including your  User agent and IP address). This information can often be used to identify you  directly.

‘So when you do that private search, not only  can those other sites know your search terms, but they can also know that you  searched it. It is this combination of available information about you that  raises privacy concerns,’ he says.

Edward Snowden 

Within two weeks of NSA’s  operations being leaked by  former employee Edward Snowden (pictured), DuckDuckGo’s  traffic had doubled –  from 1.7million searches a day to  3million

The company offers a search engine, like  Google, but which does not traffic users, which has less spam and clutter, that  showcases ‘better instant answers’, and that does not put users in a ‘filter  bubble’ meaning results are biased towards particular users.

Currently, 50 per cent of DuckDuckGo’s users  are from the U.S., 45 per cent from Europe and the remaining 5 per cent from  Asia-Pacific (APAC).

On June 3, the company reported it  had more  than 19million direct queries per month and the zero-click Info API gets over  9million queries per day.

It has partnerships with apps, browsers and  distributions that include  DuckDuckGo as a search option: Browsers,  distributions, iOS, and  Android. Companies can use DuckDuckGo for their site  search, and the  firm offers an open API for Instant Answers based on its open  source  DuckDuckHack platform.

Speaking on U.S. radio channel, American  Public Media, Mr Weinberg said:  ‘Companies like DuckDuckGo have sprung in the  last couple years to cater to the growing number of data dodgers.

‘There’s pent up demand for companies that do  not track you,’ he says.

User feedback on the company website say the  search engine reminds them of the early days of using Google; it’s like an  ‘honorable search site to complement Wikipedia’; and other are ‘amazed’ that a  search engine company is ‘doing exactly the right thing’.

Critics of the company remain cautious of the  sudden surge in success, however, pointing out that 3million searches per day is  just a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared with the 13billion searches Google does  every day.

Writing on his website, Danny Sullivan, who  runs the Search Engine Land site and analyses the industry, said big companies  like Ask.com and Yahoo had tried pro-privacy pushes before and failed to  generate huge interest.

Perhaps in the wake of the NSA and GCHQ  revelations, however, users may think twice about their search engine  provider.

DuckDuckGo 

User feedback on the company website say  the search  engine reminds them of the early days of using Google; it’s  like an ‘honorable  search site to complement Wikipedia’; and other are  ‘amazed’ that a search  engine company is ‘doing exactly the right

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