Privacy Friendly Search Engine DuckDuckGo Sees Surge in Users After NSA Scandal


The duck doesn't want to know what you're searching.

DuckDuckGo, a relatively small-scale search engine, has seen a sudden surge in activity. Although the site lacks image searches, maps, email services, and other bells and whistles common on sites like Google, DuckDuckGo makes up for its lack of window dressing by offering users something they won't find on a massive search engine: anonymity.

Thanks to the NSA scandal, Americans are once again thinking about privacy. DuckDuckGo recorded a 33% surge in users over the last two weeks, according to a CNBC Closing Bell report. According to an interview with the Independent, the site has also experience 69% growth in direct searches.

Gabriel Weinberg, the founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo, thinks he knows why people are choosing the stripped-down search engine:

"We always knew people didn't want to be tracked, but what hadn't happened was reporting on the private alternatives and so it's no surprise that people are making a choice to switch to things that that will give them great results and also have real privacy," 

DuckDuckGo's uptick follows recent revelations made about the National Security Agency. The government agency was exposed for operating a program called PRISM, which collects vast amounts of meta data on American citizens. One of the most disconcerting aspects of the scandal was that private technology companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Verizon, complied with requests for user information. Weinberg explained why DuckDuckGo never got roped into the government program:

Basically, most tech companies store user information—like searches, email account data, searches on social platforms—in data warehouses, so that it can be accessed again. But DuckDuckGo opts to throw any of that information away and not to save it, Weinberg said. 

[…] "We had zero inquiries and the reason for that is because we don't store any data," Weinberg said. "So if they come to us—which they know because it's in our privacy policy—we have nothing to hand over, it's all anonymous data."

Although the company prides itself on privacy, the CEO did suggest his belief that users "are staying because they're getting a better search experience," because "DuckDuckGo gets its results from over one hundred sources," and there is "less clutter, less spam."

Despite the recent surge and Weinstein's vision of a better user experience, DuckDuckGo is still small: "Our next milestone is to hit 1% of the search market share. We are about halfway towards that goal."

Currently, the search engine's duck graphic links to the site "call.stopwatching.us," which offers a petition to "end to the NSA's unconstitutional surveillance programs" as well as a phone number to call legislators and "demand real answers."