A start-up search engine is touting its privacy features in an effort to get users to switch from Google. But is that something people are looking for?
DuckDuckGo, a tiny search engine run by one entrepreneur, pledges not to store any personal information or send search data to other sites. This month, the site began marketing itself using its stance on privacy, specifically taking aim at Google on a website called donttrack.us and a San Francisco billboard that proclaims “Google tracks you. We don’t.”
The claims reference an issue with the way the Internet handles links that users click on when they search the Web. When a link is clicked, the address where the user came from is transmitted to the linked site via something called a “referrer header.” In the case of searches, this address includes the entire text of the search, which DuckDuckGo’s owner, Gabriel Weinberg, says can include things like queries about sensitive topics like health care.
Google, for its part, says these “referrer headers” are used by all major search engines and websites as “part of the architecture of the Web” — something that is traditionally transmitted by a site to tell other sites where visitors are linking from. “We recognize our responsibility to protect the data that users entrust to us and we give them meaningful choices to protect their privacy,” a Google spokeswoman said.