Is DuckDuckGo Safe and Secure?

By Corbin HartwickUpdated on June 27, 2018

How safe is DuckDuckGo? Very much so, actually! In fact, DuckDuckGo is probably safer and more secure than some of the more common search engines that people use, such as Google Search, Yahoo Search, and Bing. Read on to find out why.

How DuckDuckGo keeps you safe

Blocking “search leakage”

“Search leakage” is a phenomenon where, when you click on a result from a search engine to go to a website, it sends your Internet address, browser information, and search terms to that website. Therefore, not only does every website that you click on know that you specifically visited them, but they also know what you searched for to find them (and so does the search engine).

DuckDuckGo fixes this privacy problem in two basic ways. First of all, the website itself does not collect any personally-identifiable information about you. Second, when you click on the result of a DuckDuckGo search, DuckDuckGo redirects your action in a way that prevents your search terms from getting sent. Therefore, websites will still know that you visited them, but they won’t know how you found them.

Avoiding search history pitfalls

When you use other search engines, they often collect information about how you use them. This could include your search terms, the date and time of your searches, your Internet address, your browser specifications, or even your account information (if you have an account on the service and are logged in). This can let them track and profile you, which may also lead them to “personalize” your search results to show you results based on things that you are supposedly interested in. However, these results might not be the most relevant to you in the context of a particular search.

While this may be somewhat unsettling, the larger problem is what happens if the personal information a search engine collects from you is shared with others. The search engine could deliberately release anonymized versions of it (many of which aren’t actually all that anonymous) for research purposes, have it leaked or stolen by hackers, or give it to law enforcement organizations upon request.

DuckDuckGo avoids these potentially thorny privacy issues of properly securing and anonymizing data while complying with law enforcement requests by simply not collecting your personal/usage data at all. They’re not legally required to collect your information, and if they don’t have it, then they can’t leak it, lose it, or give it to law enforcement agencies.

Does DuckDuckGo collect any information from me?

Yes, but none of it contains anything that would allow DuckDuckGo to identify and track you as a unique user (such as your Internet address or web browser specifications). Here’s a list of some of the information that DuckDuckGo keeps:

  • Small Internet files known as “cookies” (see our What are Cookies article for more information) that keep track of any settings that you change on DuckDuckGo.
  • Cookies that keep track of “bangs” that you have used to search on other websites through DuckDuckGo (see our How to Search DuckDuckGo tutorial for more on “bangs” and how they work).
  • Search terms, for the sole purpose of offering spelling suggestions on commonly-misspelled words.
  • Affiliate codes that result in DuckDuckGo being paid a commission when products are sold due to someone searching for them on e-commerce websites (such as Amazon and eBay) through DuckDuckGo, or clicking an advertisement for them on DuckDuckGo. See our How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money tutorial for more information.
  • Any personal information that you willingly share with DuckDuckGo when providing them with feedback (which is totally optional; you can provide anonymous feedback if you’d like).

That’s a brief explanation of the ways in which DuckDuckGo does and doesn’t keep you safe!