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DuckDuckGo caught tracking users
© Rafael Henrique |
Security & privacy

Bad news if you use DuckDuckGo – It’s not quite as private as we thought

There are plenty of browsers and search engines out there that aren’t from Google. Tap or click here for our search engine comparison. Most people know that browsers and search engines can track your online activity.

To combat the all-seeing eye of technology giants, a few search engines moved toward more robust privacy and claim not to collect any identifiable information. One of these is DuckDuckGo, which also filters out potential personalized search results.

But with a tag line of “Privacy. Simplified,” it turns out that your details aren’t as private after all — at least if you use the DuckDuckGo browser.

Here’s the backstory

For added security and privacy, many use search engines like Brave or DuckDuckGo that prevent data collection. But through an investigation, it turns out that DuckDuckGo has a syndicated search content contract with Microsoft. Why should you care? DuckDuckGo’s mobile browsers for iOS and Android allow some of Microsoft’s sites to ignore some of its tracker blocking features.

While DuckDuckGo still doesn’t collect and store personal information, the agreement lets Microsoft track your IP address when you click on advertising.

DuckDuckGo confirmed the tracking, with CEO and Founder Gabriel Weinberg explaining on Twitter that DuckDuckGo search results are entirely anonymous, including ads. “For ads, we worked with Microsoft to make ad clicks protected,” he said.

In a statement to and posted on Reddit, Weinberg says the tracking in question “is another above-and-beyond protection that most browsers don’t even attempt to do for web protection — stopping third-party tracking scripts from even loading on third-party websites — because this can easily cause websites to break. But we’ve taken on that challenge because it makes for better privacy, and faster downloads.”

What you can do about it

DuckDuckGo is working toward removing the clause from its contract with Microsoft. Weinberg explained that the current agreement “prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties” but the company is working hard to change the requirements.

If you use DuckDuckGo for searches, you can rest easy: Search results are and have always been anonymous. Still, Weinberg says, providing total anonymity in the DuckDuckGo browser outside the search engine itself “frankly isn’t possible.”

“I know our product is not perfect and will never be. Nothing can provide 100% protection.”

New to private searching? DuckDuckGo is one of our go-to recommendations, along with:

  • Startpage: Dubbed “the world’s most private search engine,” Startpage uses Google’s abilities without tracking its users. Using it feels like you’re on Google, but you don’t have to worry about the company tracking and selling your data to the highest bidder. Tap or click here for more details.
  • Brave: The privacy-focused browser has its own search engine built into the browser. Brave Search doesn’t track you or your search results and will never sell your data to advertising companies. Tap or click here for more details.

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