Duck Duck Go & Web Anonymity

Ever since Edward Snowdon blew the whistle on the activities of the NSA & GCHQ, the trend of privacy in the online world has grown tremendously.

Ever since Edward Snowdon blew the whistle on the activities of the NSA & GCHQ, the trend of privacy in the online world has grown tremendously. People are now far more concerned about how much information of theirs is actually online, and in whose hands it lies.

A big area of concern has always been search engines. As most users of Google know, the search giant stores the search data of everyone. This is then used to improve the service, as they can spot search trends and tailor searches more to the users needs. However, your usual group of conspiracy theorists, anarchists and Guardian readers voice concern that Google knows more about you than you do, and all this information will be willingly passed on to governments around the world.

Over the recent years, there have been many startups with privacy at the heart of their business models. Within the search market, a great example of this is Duck Duck Go. Formed in 2008 by entrepreneur Gabriel Weinberg, Duck Duck Go provides a completely anonymous environment for people to search the web. They claim to not care about user information, citing that the larger search engines only use that data to sell their own products, as opposed to improving their own service. Like the other key players, they too generate income through paid advertisements, which they claim are far more relevant and targeted than the ‘clutter’ people see on the larger search engines.

Sure, anonymity online in this day and age is golden, but how beneficial is it to the end user? In order to gain anonymity, does one have to sacrifice better service? Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, has said that we should accept data sharing online as an inevitability, and that even having openly shared medical records online can only be beneficial to helping save more lives. But there is more to this – like traditional data collection & surveys of old, which helped companies improve themselves, sharing data online helps web companies improve services which are usually provided to us for free – it would seem people use anonymous search for the principle as opposed to quality of service.

Personally, I believe sharing a tiny proportion of my online data in order to improve the service I receive is a satisfactory sacrifice. The internet has paved the way and forced companies to provide great service to their customers, and this can only be beneficial. It’s all about prudence – if one is really concerned about privacy, one will know what information to provide, and what not to. So I will stick with using Google for the time being – I’m sure the FBI aren’t going to come raiding my house after searching for brownie recipes.

Post by Fouad Halawi, Search Marketing Account Manager at Collider.

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