For millions, privacy on the internet is a major concern. For these people, how much information an online company is collecting about them is important, and so is what companies do with their information. For a long time, these users were looked at by technology companies as outliers, people who were vocal yes, but very much in the minority.
Now that the NSA’s PRISM program has been allegedly detailed, that concern has come to the forefront of minds across the world. Reportedly, PRISM allows the United States government to collect information about users of Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, AOL and Google products without the user ever knowing that they were under surveillance.
While text messages and emails might be the nightmare snooping scenario for many users, the things that they might type into a search engine could also be just as revealing. Naturally, if Google was to be in compliance with the PRISZM program a natural fit for collecting information would be the Search results of users.
Enter search engine DuckDuckGo. Since its inception in 2011, the search engine has repeatedly chastised Google for its policy of collecting information about users and recent privacy events setup the two for a head-to-head clash in philosophy.
The reality is that in order for privacy to become much more of a front-line issue for users, they’ll need to be able to get the experiences that surrendering their privacy provides. Here’s how DuckDuckGo stacks up against Google.
DuckDuckGo vs. Google
For most people, it isn’t really the breadth of features that locks them to the Google ecosystem as much as it’s the speed at which they can begin a search and find what they are looking for. In my experience search results came just as fast on each though, DuckDuckGo did earn points for having a user interface that was completely dominated by just the anonymous search results. No bars with every conceivable option under the Sun. Just results.
Even though Google’s search homepage doesn’t allude to it, the service is filled to the brim with features that users have to come to depend on for years. This includes everything from video and image search to things like built-in mapping. As a substitute for these things DuckDuckGo allows users to search other websites from their interface should the need arise.
For example, images search can be triggered from both Google and Bing, though obviously the service won’t be able to guarantee that those searches are anonymous once the user has arrived at their search destination.
In lieu of flashy add-ons, DuckDuckGo offers an extensive list of features including everything from basic mathematic calculations, to password generating to even an IP address finder, all from the search engine interface. The search engine also can provide some pretty cool contextual searches that we’ve yet to find on Google or anywhere else like entering the search term ‘popular songs” and having it surface results from streaming service Last.FM.
Accessibility & Availability
While there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both DuckDuckGo and Google depending on different usage cases, the very real fact is that anonymous search doesn’t do a user a lot of good if they still have to rely on other services away from their computer. Unfortunately, DuckDuckGo just isn’t available where users need it to be without having to install an application. Too their credit, the company does make an application available to Android and iOS users.
Here’s the problem, iPhone and iPad users aren’t able to set the service as their default search engine without jailbreaking their device. Instead, each time they’d like to search something they must first remember to not use the operating system’s search functions. That’s same situation goes for Android users. Android 4.1 doesn’t allow for that time of customization either.
This story gets even worse for users of Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. The company has no applications for those platforms. Instead, these users will have to rely on opening their web browser and then searching.
Speaking of web browsers, that’s one place where DuckDuckGo can rival Google Search. The company makes add-ons for nearly every internet browser of importance so that you can at least make it the default search engine on a PC or Mac.
Much like operating systems, in the end Search engines seem to come down to just a few factors. Do they find the things you want? Are they available wherever you need them? Can you trust them? In this case I’d add it also has something to do with how valuable your privacy is to you.
If the NSA’s PRISM scandal has a user concerned, then DuckDuckGo is the only clear answer. Yes, Google does have privacy and data controls, but there’s clearly a reason why the company doesn’t advertise its search as having not logged any user data.
Read: 5 Reasons to Use a VPN
DuckDuckGo’s limited amount of search add-ons on also pretty cool and offer something that Google just flat out doesn’t. No, there’s no YouTube counterpart or Trends tracker, but that’s the cost of doing business with smaller search providers.
On the other hand if integration is important, Google Search completely wins out. It’s just available to anyone, anywhere, on nearly any device, at any time.