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  1. 2021 looks to become another record year for the DuckDuckGo search engine Can a privacy-focused search engine survive on today's Internet? It appears that it can, as DuckDuckGo is looking to end the year 2021 with another record-breaking traffic increase. I have followed the rise of DuckDuckGo since 2012, when I announced here on this site that it became my primary search engine. I had plenty of reasons for that, but privacy was the main one. Then came PRISM, and DuckDuckGo's traffic started to rise a lot. Back in 2013, traffic rose to more than 2 million queries per day, a small number for search engine heavyweight Google Search, but an important milestone for the DuckDuckGo search engine. In 2015, DuckDuckGo reported that it crossed the 10 million daily searches mark, and this year (2021), it managed to cross the 100 million searches mark for the first time. If you look at the reported traffic figures for 2019 and 2020, you get about 15 billion queries in 2019 and 23.6 billion in 2020. Here is the year-by-year listing from 2015 to 2020. 2015 -- 3.1 billion 2016 -- 4.0 billion 2017 -- 5.9 billion 2018 -- 9.2 billion 2019 -- 15.0 billion 2020 --23.6 billion Now, in 2021, it looks as if the search engine will report another record year. It is mid-June right now, and traffic is already at 16.0 billion queries. With six months to go, it is very likely that the 30 billion mark will be crossed in the year, and that traffic will likely end between 32-34 billion queries in the year. The search engine announced plans today to accelerate the growth further. The company plans to release its first desktop application, which it states can be used as a primary browser. DuckDuckGo did not reveal any details on its new browser project. It is likely that it will be based on Chromium, but there is also a chance that Firefox might be its base. If the former is true, it will be interesting to see how it fares against other privacy browsers such as Brave or Vivaldi. Brave, on the other hand, is testing its own search engine that is focused on privacy. Additionally, it wants to add "new privacy protections" to its portfolio of features and tools, including a "cross-platform email privacy solution" and "app tracker blocking on Android devices" later this year to provide even more privacy services to its users (and new ones). DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014, and generates a revenue of over $100 million US Dollars now. Now You: which search engine do you use predominantly? 2021 looks to become another record year for the DuckDuckGo search engine
  2. EFF Partners with DuckDuckGo to Enhance Secure Browsing and Protect User Information on the Web DuckDuckGo Smarter Encryption Will Be Incorporated Into HTTPS Everywhere San Francisco, California—Boosting protection of Internet users’ personal data from snooping advertisers and third-party trackers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced it has enhanced its groundbreaking HTTPS Everywhere browser extension by incorporating rulesets from DuckDuckGo Smarter Encryption. The partnership represents the next step in the evolution of HTTPS Everywhere, a collaboration with The Tor Project and a key component of EFF’s effort to encrypt the web and make the Internet ecosystem safe for users and website owners. “DuckDuckGo Smarter Encryption has a list of millions of HTTPS-encrypted websites, generated by continually crawling the web instead of through crowdsourcing, which will give HTTPS Everywhere users more coverage for secure browsing,” said Alexis Hancock, EFF Director of Engineering and manager of HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot web encrypting projects. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with DuckDuckGo as we see HTTPS become the default protocol on the net and contemplate HTTPS Everywhere’s future.” “EFFs pioneering work with the HTTPS Everywhere extension took privacy protection in a new and needed direction, seamlessly upgrading people to secure website connections,” said Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo founder and CEO. “We're delighted that EFF has now entrusted DuckDuckGo to power HTTPS Everywhere going forward, using our next generation Smarter Encryption dataset." When EFF launched HTTPS Everywhere over a decade ago, the majority of web servers used the non-secure HTTP protocol to transfer web pages to browsers, rendering user content and information vulnerable to attacks. EFF began building and maintaining a crowd-sourced list of encrypted HTTPS versions of websites for a free browser extension— HTTPS Everywhere—which automatically takes users to them. That keeps users’ web searching, pages visited, and other private information encrypted and safe from trackers and data thieves that try to intercept and steal personal information in transit from their browser. Fast forward ten years­—the web is undergoing a massive change to HTTPS. Mozilla’s Firefox has an HTTPS-only mode, while Google Chrome is slowly moving towards HTTPS mode. DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, also joined the effort with Smarter Encryption to help users browse securely by detecting unencrypted, non-secure HTTP connections to websites and automatically upgrading them to encrypted connections. With more domain coverage in Smarter Encryption, HTTPS Everywhere users are provided even more protection. HTTPS Everywhere rulesets will continue to be hosted through this year, giving our partners who use them time to adjust. We will stop taking new requests for domains to be added at the end of May. To download HTTPS Everywhere: https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere For more on encrypting the web: https://www.eff.org/encrypt-the-web For more from DuckDuckGo: https://spreadprivacy.com/eff-adopts-duckduckgo-smarter-encryption/ Source: EFF Partners with DuckDuckGo to Enhance Secure Browsing and Protect User Information on the Web
  3. How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster and precise results DuckDuckGo is a popular internet search engine that is privacy-focused and ad-free. It is widely recommended by security professionals, blogs, armchair experts, because it does not profile users or harvest their data. I should tell you this straightaway, this article is not about the search engine's privacy related features, but as the title reads, how to use the service more efficiently. That said, here's a brief introduction about DDG (as its abbreviated). The search provider hit a milestone in January of this year, as it reached 100 Million search queries on a single day. So why isn't DuckDuckGo used as much as Google, or even Bing? Short answer, marketing. Google and Microsoft with their endless resources promote their search engine in various ways, and it pays off. Their biggest strength is that their search engine is set as the default one in the stock browser, i.e. Microsoft Edge in Windows 10, and Google Chrome on Android. The companies also have various partnerships with popular device manufacturers and organizations, to make their search engine the default in the third-party products, e.g. Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. That's the reason why the search engine that protects personal information is often overlooked. You may not know this, but nearly every browser allows you to change the default search engine with a couple of clicks. Head to the settings, and you can switch to DuckDuckGo as the default search app in a flash, as it is an option in many. Or just install the official add-on, and it let it do the job for you. Why do more people not use DDG if it is so secure? The reason I mentioned above is a major factor, but there are others. Search results provided by Google may offer better results at times, especially when it comes to non-English searches. DuckDuckGo does have a mechanism in place to run Google searches, and the following chapter explains how that is done. How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster, precise results Did you know that you can use DuckDuckGo and still get results from Google? Not just Google, you can use it to search through thousands of sites. How is that possible? Welcome to the world of DuckDuckGo bangs. Note: DuckDuckGo Bangs take you to other search engines, websites and services, which means DDG's privacy measures cannot prevent tracking on these sites. DuckDuckGo Bangs are special commands or filters, that you can use with the search engine to narrow down the results. According to the official website there are over 13000 bangs, including the exclusive ghacks bang !ghacks to run searches on this site. How do you perform a search normally? You visit Google, or use the address bar, and type the search query, e.g. Windows 10 Update Issues, or something more specific like, pnp detected fatal error, and the browser loads the search results page of the default search provider. To use bangs, all you need to do is add a prefix to your search. With Google, the bang we are looking for is !g, so an example search would look like this !g ghacks This will run a Google Search for the term Ghacks. Hey, that still takes me to Google. It does, but the search is more precise and faster, and technically this is made possible via DuckDuckGo. Bangs are not limited to the main Google site, you can use it with Gmail, Drive, Maps, Images, etc. You can also use bangs with DDG's own search, for example, to open the first result directly, use ! or \. This is the I feel Ducky shortcut. So, looking up ! ghacks will open the top result, which is obviously where you are now. What else can I do with bangs? Let's say you wanted to look up something on Wikipedia, use the !w prefix before the search term. Here is an example, maybe you want to know the history of cookies. So you can search for !w cookies. This is a bit different, it's a site-specific search, in this case, DuckDuckGo will not take you to the search results page, instead it will directly take you to the relevant Wikipedia page. DuckDuckGo search also works directly on Steam, Twitter, Amazon. Some examples, !steam halo !amazon iphone or !a iphone !twitter star wars This also works with YouTube, Reddit, and hundreds of other websites. !yt cat videos will open YouTube's search page for cat videos. !r for searching reddit, or even better, to go to a subreddit directly use !sr !sr awww will take you to the r/aww subreddit. !srs firefox proton will run a search for proton, and restrict it to the r/Firefox sub. All these commands work across platforms and browsers, so regardless of if you're using Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, you can use bangs on your device. I've just brushed the basics of the search tech, you can learn more about bangs at the official page, and find more commands for the sites you frequent. Source: How to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google and other sites to get faster and precise results
  4. DuckDuckGo Extension blocks Google FLoC in latest update DuckDuckGo released a new version of its browser extension, called DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials, for all supported web browsers this week. The new version blocks FLoC interactions on websites to protect the privacy of users. If you have not heard about FLoC yet, it is Google's attempt to shift advertising from a cookie-based system to one that does not require cookies anymore. Basically, what it does is assign a user to a cohort -- FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. A cohort is made up of thousands of users who share similar interests. While that sounds like a nice thing to do on first glance, it is not. You can check out the EFF's Google's FLoC is a Terrible Idea to better understand why FLoC is not necessarily better for Internet users in terms of privacy and tracking. A final FLoC standard has not been released yet and many things are still discussed and modified. Here are the main points of criticism leveled against FLoC at the time of writing: Website operators and advertisers learn about a user's interests when the user visits the site, even if it is the first visit. FLoC makes fingerprinting easier. FLoC, when combined with user identifying technologies, such as account sign-ins, gives site owners and advertisers a clear picture of the user's interest. Cohorts should not related to "sensitive categories" such as race, gender or religion, and to avoid this, the algorithm needs to tweak groups to avoid implicating a user based on such a group. In order to to that, Google needs to analyze the data based on these sensitive categories. Test whether FLoC is enabled in your browser Google runs an origin trial in its Chrome web browser at the time of writing that affects 0.5% of users in select regions. The EFF has created a webpage that checks if FLoC is enabled in the browser. FLoC is only supported by Google Chrome at the time of writing; it remains to be seen if it will be included by default in other Chromium-based browsers, or if third-party developers will disable it. To test, if your browser uses FLoC, visit the Am I Floced website and activate the test button to find out about it. The DuckDuckGo extension If you are using Google Chrome, you may install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension to block FLoC. DuckDuckGo explains on its Spread Privacy website that the @FLoC blocking feature is included in version 2021.4.8 and newer of the DuckDuckGo extension". The blocking is enabled automatically when the extension is installed. DuckDuckGo for Chrome can be installed from the Chrome Web Store. The latest version is not yet available in the Store. Source: DuckDuckGo Extension blocks Google FLoC in latest update
  5. DuckDuckGo enables Global Privacy Control on mobile and desktop by default Late last year, DuckDuckGo joined a privacy-focused initiative called Global Privacy Control (GPC) along with other organizations and individuals in an effort to develop an open standard to help users assert their rights against online tracking. Now, it's bringing that online privacy protection to a new level. DuckDuckGo announced today that it is enabling the GPC setting by default in its mobile apps for Android and iOS as well as browser extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. When switched on, GPC will signal a website you visit that you've opted out from being tracked. The service noted it already provides anti-tracking features for your web sessions. GPC serves as additional legal protection for your privacy rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), especially in cases where websites in certain locations may sell or share your data to advertisers or data brokers. Publishers that participated in the GPC initiative include The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Automattic. DuckDuckGo also revealed that these publishers are now set to enforce this standard when people visit their websites. If you want to give it a try, you can update your DuckDuckGo app to version 7.61.11 or newer on iOS and version 5.73.0 or newer on Android. On desktop, you can just install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension for Chrome, Firefox, Brave or Edge, or update to version 2021.1.8 or later. DuckDuckGo enables Global Privacy Control on mobile and desktop by default
  6. Under pressure from rightsholders, Google makes pirate sites harder to find in search results. As a result, pirates are increasingly advising each other to use DuckDuckGo instead. Surprisingly, in response to a very popular 'pirate' search term, Google appears to agree its rival is the best option. In an ideal world, search engine users would be presented with the most authoritative set of results in response to a specific search. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world but companies like Google, given the scale of the task, do a reasonable job of helping us find what we’re looking for, with some caveats. Piracy-Related Searches Are Tampered With By design, Google and other search engines have been deciding what’s ‘best’ for us for years. After all, it’s their own algorithms that decide which sites appear in response to any kind of search. Precisely how these decisions are made are closely-guarded secrets but in more recent years and under pressure from copyright holders, we known that Google has been heavily tampering with piracy-related searches. The general line is that Google voluntarily demotes and downranks sites for which it receives large numbers of valid DMCA notices. The theory is that sites are punished for continually infringing copyright so when users search for a particular movie, for example, torrent and streaming sites aren’t presented as the top options. As a result and unless searchers use a considerable amount of ‘Google-Fu’, Google is no longer a good place to find pirated content. In fact, people are more likely to find scammy and dangerous sites instead, as they bubble their way to the top to occupy the vacuum. Need the Pirate Bay Or a Proxy? Forget Google With The Pirate Bay the ‘proud’ receiver of millions of copyright complaints, searching for the site by name in Google is almost pointless. Even though the search term clearly shows what the user is looking for, the site doesn’t appear in the first few pages of Google’s results, unless people search for its precise domain. However, with the site blocked by ISPs all around the world, what millions of people are actually looking for these days is Pirate Bay proxy services that facilitate access to the site. Over time, these also receive millions of complaints so Google downranks these too. DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, produces exactly what one might expect as a result of these searches – ThePirateBay.org on the top and a list of Pirate Bay proxies respectively. DuckDuckGo is Less Comprehensive But Also More ‘Honest’ Search engine DuckDuckGo has a tiny 0.5% of the search market but with its pro-privacy stance, is increasingly favored when it comes to seeking out pirate content. The results that appear in response to searches tend to feel much more authentic when compared to those presented by Google, a suggestion perhaps that less or even no ‘tampering’ is taking place. While this might not please copyright holders, DuckDuckGo’s relative obscurity doesn’t make it a prime target for them right now but in a bizarre twist we noticed this week, it appears Google has somehow determined that its rival is the most authoritative option when it comes to a particular ‘pirate’ search. Google’s Algorithm Promotes DuckDuckGo to the Top Spot This week it was revealed that in Australia, Google will voluntarily block proxies and mirrors of pirate sites without being presented with a court order. This followed a similar agreement in 2019 which saw Google de-index more than 800 pirate sites. This move piqued our interest so we carried out a simple Google search for “pirate bay proxies”. The screenshot below reveals what we were presented with. Accurate But Surprising in More Ways Than One Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this top result is that Google is promoting a rival’s service. This is interesting since whenever it reasonably can, modern-day Google has a tendency to recommend its own product. Had it done that here, however, users would get caught in an infinite loop of finding little of value. The other interesting thing about this valuable top-spot placement is that it promotes a custom search on DuckDuckGo when indexing internal searches of other sites is usually discouraged by Google itself. All that having been said, Google has arguably done its job here to perfection. Either by design or otherwise, its algorithms have determined that DuckDuckGo is the best place to find Pirate Bay proxies. And they have got that absolutely spot on. The Bigger Picture of Search Engines and Piracy It’s worth noting that if we look at the history of piracy on the Internet, it existed long before Google was founded. In fact, most early online piracy didn’t rely on today’s searchable web at all, with locations of file dumps mostly spread via word of mouth, early chat technologies, and newsgroups. But back then, of course, a whole generation was yet to be born, with most parents still unaware that the Internet existed. The point is that while mainstream piracy arguably began with Napster, it only exploded when the content of eDonkey and BitTorrent networks became searchable on the web. Search engines, rightly or wrongly depending on viewpoint, played a massive role in that. What we will probably see in the next few years, however, is that role diminishing again. By choice or by force, Google will undoubtedly clamp down further on piracy and its rivals will eventually have to follow suit. It may take a while but basic searches will no longer prove useful to pirates and they will have to find other ways to educate themselves on where to find content. Most large file-sharing discussion communities – and there were many – died out years ago, partly due to waning interest, partly due to the rise of social networks. But mainly because piracy was no longer niche and presented on a plate, often via search engines. These communities may have to rise again because (and you can quote me on this) Reddit, Facebook and similar platforms will eventually go the same way as search engines when it comes to piracy. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. Pro-privacy upstart claims EU antitrust remedy is not fit for purpose Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo will no longer appear on Google's European search preference menu for Android in most countries, despite being the most popular choice after Google. The company has complained in response to Google's publication of its latest "choice screen winners". In 2019 Google agreed to provide Android users a prompt for selecting the default search provider, in response to a July 2018 decision by the European Commission that Google has been abusing its dominant position by tying the Google search app with the Play Store. Google's remedy is controversial. Four choices are shown, of which one is always Google, and Google then uses an auction to determine who else appears. The winners get the privilege of paying Google each time a user selects them from the menu. "This auction remedy, proposed by Google, was constructed to make Google money, not to provide meaningful consumer choice," DuckDuckGo argued previously. The latest auction does include DuckDuckGo, but only in Bulgaria, Croatia, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, out of 31 territories. "We have been priced out of this auction because we chose not to maximize our profits by exploiting users," DuckDuckGo. The logic is that the price bid is a commercial decision based on how much profit the search provider expects to make from being the default. "Google's auction further incentivizes search engines to be worse on privacy, to increase ads, and to not donate to good causes, because, if they do those things, then they could afford to bid higher," it said. Despite DuckDuckGo's protests, rival privacy search provider PrivacyWall does feature in the search options for most territories, including the UK. PrivacyWall is a for-profit company but says it uses its profits "to fund privacy projects" and that its top search result is always organic. That said, the company was in the news for the wrong reasons in July after placing search ads encouraging voters to use its paid voter registration service when they can register for free. DuckDuckGo has a strong argument, particularly as its research suggests that DuckDuckGo is the most popular option after Google when a menu like this is used, ahead of Microsoft's Bing. In the UK, for example, 5.78 per cent selected DuckDuckGo versus 4.29 per cent for Yahoo! and 3.36 per cent for Bing. Google still wins 86.57 per cent of the time, but for these smaller providers, even a small percentage of such an important market is significant. A large part of the problem is brand awareness, with only 21 per cent of those surveyed saying they had heard of DuckDuckGo at all, whereas most are familiar with Bing and Yahoo! (but still choose Google). Will this menu system be changed? According to DuckDuckGo, the European Commission "has said they have been waiting on data to act". Change, if it comes, will not be soon. Source
  8. Search engines generally aim to return the most relevant results, but that's not always the case. Earlier this year we reported how popular pirate sites were dropping from Google's top results and the same appears to be happening in DuckDuckGo as well now, with Bing not staying behind. Over the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked search engines to step up their game when it comes to their anti-piracy efforts. In addition to processing takedown notices, Google and Bing are now also actively working with rightsholders to take more proactive measures. Takedown+ Google, for example, downranks sites for which it regularly receives valid takedown notices. This isn’t new but this year the search engine apparently stepped up its game even further, making the homepages of several top pirate sites unfindable. Instead of pointing people to the official domains of popular pirate sites such as 1337x, NYAA, and LimeTorrents, Google directed users to copycats that had nothing to do with these sites. This wasn’t due to DMCA takedown requests either. When we covered our findings we contrasted the results with those from alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Bing, which both showed the real sites as the first results. This led us to the conclusion that Google was actively manipulating its results. Popular Sites Vanish From DuckDuckGo Today, a few months later, the ‘disappearance’ issue is no longer unique to Google. Popular pirates sites have started to disappear from other search engines as well, including DuckDuckGo. For example, when we searched for 1337x a few weeks ago the official 1337x.to domain was the top result, as shown here. Today, however, that domain isn’t listed on the first few pages as can be seen below. The official 1337x domain has simply disappeared. The same applies to several other pirate brands. When we search for RarBG the official rarbg.to domain is nowhere to be found and the same is true for Torrentz2.eu. Even the site of the popular games repacker Fitgirl has vanished, as several Redditors also noticed. Ironically, DuckDuckGo does still list information from Wikipedia on the side, which does list the proper authoritative domain, as shown below. While it’s clear that ‘something’ is happening here we don’t know what. TorrentFreak reached out to DuckDuckGo through various channels to get a comment on our findings, but the company has yet to respond. Takedown Notices? The most likely scenario is that the pages were removed following DMCA takedown notices. However, in that case, you often see another URL from the same domain taking over the top spot. Not just some random copycat site. We don’t see any page from the official domain in the top 100 results. Also, the homepage of 1337x.to, which recently disappeared, doesn’t list any copyright-infringing content, so removing that would be quite broad by itself. DuckDuckGo is not the only search engine that appears to be following in Google’s footsteps. The same is happening at Bing. For example, when we search for “fitgirl repacks” there, the official fitgirl-repacks.site doesn’t show up. Bing Wipes Out Fitgirl Unlike DuckDuckGo, Bing notes at the bottom of the page that “some results have been removed.” In the case of Fitgirl, that’s an understatement because a more narrow search for the fitgirl-repacks.site domain shows that all results have been removed. These mystery disappearances don’t apply to all pirate sites. The official Pirate Bay domain, for example, was removed in Bing but still shows up as the first result in DuckDuckGo, at least for now. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. The privacy centered search engine DuckDuckGo has cleaned up its bangs database. In the process, the company also removed several search shortcuts for 'pirate' sites, to avoid potential liability issues. The removed bangs include those of the popular torrent sites The Pirate Bay and 1337x, as well other resources such as Sci-Hub and OpenSubtitles. First launched just a decade ago, search engine DuckDuckGo is a goto tool for Internet users who value their privacy. Unlike many competitors, the site doesn’t keep a record of users’ IP addresses or other sensitive information. The search engine also has a variety of useful features such as instant answers and bangs. The latter are particularly useful for people who want to use DuckDuckGo to search directly on other sites. Typing ‘!yt keyword’ will do a direct search on YouTube, for example, ‘!w keyword’ goes to Wikipedia, and ‘!torrentfreak keyword’ does a search on TorrentFreak. This library of bangs has been around for a long time and has grown to more than 10,000 over the years. However, a few days ago, roughly 2,000 of these were removed. Interestingly, this included many bangs that link to torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay, 1337x and RARBG. Similarly, bangs for OpenSubtitles, Sci-Hub and LibGen are gone too. Pirate Bay bang stopped working Initially, it was unclear what had happened, but after people started asking questions on Reddit, DuckDuckGo staff explained that this was part of a larger cleanup operation. DuckDuckGo went through its bangs library and removed all non-working versions, as well as verbose ones that were not actively used. In addition, many pirate site bangs were deleted as these are no longer “permitted.” “Bangs had been neglected for some time, and there were tons of broken ones. As part of the bang clean-up, we also removed some that were pointing to primarily illegal content,” DuckDuckGo staffer Tagawa explains. The search engine still indexes the sites in question but it feels that offering curated search shortcuts for these sites in their service might cause problems. Apparently, this wasn’t a major issue when the bangs were first introduced. However, perhaps in part due to a changing perspective on the role of third-party intermediaries, DuckDuckGo sees potential liability issues now. “It may not seem like so at first blush, but it is very different legally if it is a bang vs. in the search results because the bangs are added to the product by us explicitly, and can be interpreted legally as an editorial decision that is actively facilitating that site and its content. “We operate globally, as do bangs, and products that actively facilitate interaction with illegal content can have us and our employees face significant legal liability, and jeopardizing the entire service,” Tagawa adds. Not all users are happy with the decision. They point out that some of the removed sites can be used to access legal content as well, such as open source Linux versions. But DuckDuckGo doesn’t want to take any risk. It is pointed out that users can still achieve the same with other tools. For example, Firefox allows users to create their own search shortcuts, which work pretty much the same as bangs. Luckily, the TorrentFreak bang has rightfully survived DuckDuckGo’s purge. Also, anyone who’s looking for a recent Linux distribution can still use the ‘!distro’ bang. source
  10. Enable DuckDuckGo in Google Chrome 73 The latest update for Google Chrome introduced a series of welcome changes, such as the dark mode on macOS, but the new version also comes with new options that you may not notice at first. One of them is support for DuckDuckGo, the privacy-oriented search engine that’s finally available for Google Chrome users as a built-in option. DuckDuckGo is now offered as a Google Chrome feature to users in total of 60 markets, including several European countries like Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. DuckDuckGo is also available in the United States as part of Google Chrome 73. Google hasn’t released an official announcement on this, but certainly, adding DuckDuckGo to the list of features in the latest Chrome version is without a doubt welcome news, especially for those who’ve made privacy a priority when browsing the web. While choosing Google Chrome has never been considered an option for privacy-conscious users, DuckDuckGo could help the browser improve in this regard, while also lending a hand to the search giant in its attempts to deal with the criticism coming from organizations worldwide. Needless to say, DuckDuckGo isn’t offered as the default search engine in Google Chrome 73, but only as an option, so you have to enable it manually in the browser. Doing this, however, isn’t at all rocket science, as you can set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine in Chrome with just a few clicks. First and foremost, you can launch the browser and then navigate to the following location: Google Chrome > Settings > Search engine The option that you need to us is called Search engine used in the address bar, which by default is set to Google. After updating to Google Chrome 73, if you click the drop-down menu in this section, you should also be able to select DuckDuckGo. As an alternative, whenever you launch Google Chrome, you can simply right-click the address bar and then: Right-click address bar > Edit search engines Beginning with Google Chrome 73, the Default search engines section should come with four different options, namely Google, which is the default option, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo. Clicking the three-dot icon next to DuckDuckGo lets you set it as default, replacing Google. There’s no need to reboot the browser, as the chances are applied immediately when clicking the new option. Google appears to have a complete change of mind regarding search engines in Google Chrome, and what’s more surprising is that the company pays more attention to services that are first and foremost focused on privacy. DuckDuckGo wasn’t previously offered as an option to Google Chrome users, though other methods to configure it as the default search engine were still allowed. Furthermore, a DuckDuckGo extension was available in the Chrome Web Store for users who wanted to connect to the service. In addition to DuckDuckGo, which is available in 60 countries as part of the Chrome feature lineup, Google also appears to provide French users with a new option too, this time for Qwant, which is a local search engine. Qwant, however, isn’t available elsewhere as an optional search engine for Google Chrome. Ironically, Qwant co-founder Eric Leandri told TechCrunch in an interview that although Google has made some progress in this struggle for enhanced privacy, switching to Mozilla Firefox or Brave is still the better option. This tutorial is valid not only for Windows devices that have already been updated to Google Chrome 73, but also on macOS and Linux running the same version of the browser, as the option is available on all platforms when used in one of the supported countries. Source
  11. 2019 may finally be the year for ‘The Search Engine That Doesn’t Track You’ In late November, hotel conglomerate Marriott International disclosed that the personal information of some 500 million customers — including home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers — had been exposed as part of a data breach affecting its Starwood Hotels and Resorts network. One day earlier, the venerable breakfast chain Dunkin’ (née Donuts) announced that its rewards program had been compromised. Only two weeks before that, it was revealed that a major two-factor authentication provider had exposed millions of temporary account passwords and reset links for Google, Amazon, HQ Trivia, Yahoo, and Microsoft users. These were just the icing on the cake for a year of compromised data: Adidas, Orbitz, Macy’s, Under Armour, Sears, Forever 21, Whole Foods, Ticketfly, Delta, Panera Bread, and Best Buy, just to name a few, were all affected by security breaches. Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense that the tech giants have finally turned on us. Amazon dominates so many facets of the online shopping experience that we might have to rewrite antitrust law to rein them in. Google has been playing fast and loose with its “Don’t Be Evil” mantra by almost launching a censored search engine for the Chinese government while simultaneously developing killer A.I. for Pentagon drones. And we now know that Facebook collected people’s personal data without their consent, let companies such as Spotify and Netflix look at our private messages, fueled fake news and Donald Trump, and was used to facilitate a genocide in Myanmar. The backlash against these companies dominated our national discourse in 2018. The European Union is cracking down on anticompetitive practices at Amazon and Google. Both Facebook and Twitter have had their turns in the congressional hot seat, facing questions from slightly confused but definitely irate lawmakers about how the two companies choose what information to show us and what they do with our data when we’re not looking. Worries over privacy have led everyone from the New York Times to Brian Acton, the disgruntled co-founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, to call for a Facebook exodus. And judging by Facebook’s stagnating rate of user growth, people seem to be listening. For Gabriel Weinberg, the founder and CEO of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, our growing tech skepticism recalls the early 1900s, when Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle revealed the previously unexamined horrors of the meatpacking industry. “Industries have historically gone through periods of almost ignorant bliss, and then people start to expose how the sausage is being made,” he says. Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo CEO and Founder This, in a nutshell, is DuckDuckGo’s proposition: “The big tech companies are taking advantage of you by selling your data. We won’t.” In effect, it’s an anti-sales sales pitch. DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most prominent in a number of small but rapidly growing firms attempting to make it big — or at least sustainable — by putting their customers’ privacy and security first. And unlike the previous generation of privacy products, such as Tor or SecureDrop, these services are easy to use and intuitive, and their user bases aren’t exclusively composed of political activists, security researchers, and paranoiacs. The same day Weinberg and I spoke, DuckDuckGo’s search engine returned results for 33,626,258 queries — a new daily record for the company. Weinberg estimates that since 2014, DuckDuckGo’s traffic has been increasing at a rate of “about 50 percent a year,” a claim backed up by the company’s publicly available traffic data. “You can run a profitable company — which we are — without [using] a surveillance business model,” Weinberg says. If he’s right, DuckDuckGo stands to capitalize handsomely off our collective backlash against the giants of the web economy and establish a prominent brand in the coming era of data privacy. If he’s wrong, his company looks more like a last dying gasp before surveillance capitalism finally takes over the world. DuckDuckGo is based just east of nowhere. Not in the Bay Area, or New York, or Weinberg’s hometown of Atlanta, or in Boston, where he and his wife met while attending MIT. Instead, DuckDuckGo headquarters is set along a side street just off the main drag of Paoli, Pennsylvania, in a building that looks like a cross between a Pennsylvania Dutch house and a modest Catholic church, on the second floor above a laser eye surgery center. Stained-glass windows look out onto the street, and a small statue of an angel hangs precariously off the roof. On the second floor, a door leading out to a balcony is framed by a pair of friendly looking cartoon ducks, one of which wears an eye patch. Just before DuckDuckGo’s entrance sits a welcome mat that reads “COME BACK WITH A WARRANT.” “People don’t generally show up at our doorstep, but I hope that at some point it’ll be useful,” Weinberg tells me, sitting on a couch a few feet from an Aqua Teen Hunger Force mural that takes up a quarter of a wall. At 39, he is energetic, affable, and generally much more at ease with himself than the stereotypical tech CEO. The office around us looks like it was furnished by the set designer of Ready Player One: a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy print in the entryway, Japanese-style panels depicting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the bathroom, and a vintage-looking RoboCop pinball machine in the break room. There’s even a Lego model of the DeLorean from Back to the Future on his desk. The furniture, Weinberg tells me, is mostly from Ikea. The lamp in the communal area is a hand-me-down from his mom. Weinberg learned basic programming on an Atari while he was still in elementary school. Before hitting puberty, he’d built an early internet bulletin board. “It didn’t really have a purpose” in the beginning, Weinberg says. The one feature that made his bulletin board unique, he says, was that he hosted anonymous AMA-style question panels with his father, an infectious disease doctor with substantial experience treating AIDS patients. This was during the early 1990s, when the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS remained so great that doctors were known to deny treatment to those suffering from it. Weinberg says that the free—and private—medical advice made the board a valuable resource for the small number of people who found it. It was an early instance of Weinberg’s interest in facilitating access to information, as well as a cogent example of the power of online privacy: “The ability to access informational resources anonymously actually opens up that access significantly,” he told me over email. After graduating from MIT in 2001, Weinberg launched a slew of businesses, none of which are particularly memorable. First there was an educational software program called Learnection. (“Terrible name… the idea was good, but 15 years too early,” he says.) Then he co-founded an early social networking company called Opobox, taking on no employees and writing all the code himself. “Facebook just kind of obliterated it,” Weinberg says, though he was able to sell the network to the parent company of Classmates.com for roughly $10 million in cash in 2006. It was around that time when Weinberg began working on what would become DuckDuckGo. Google had yet to achieve total hegemony over the internet search field, and Weinberg felt that he could create a browser plugin that might help eliminate the scourge of spammy search results in other search engines. To build an algorithm that weeded out bad search results, he first had to do it by hand. “I took a large sample of different pages and hand-marked them as ‘spam’ or ‘not spam.’” The process of scraping the web, Weinberg says, inadvertently earned him a visit from the FBI. “Once they realized I was just crawling the web, they just went away,” he says. He also experimented with creating a proto-Quora service that allowed anyone to pose a question and have it answered by someone else, as well as a free alternative to Meetup.com. Eventually, he combined facets of all three efforts into a full-on search engine. When Weinberg first launched DuckDuckGo in 2008 — the name is a wink to the children’s game of skipping over the wrong options to get to the right one — he differentiated his search engine by offering instant answers to basic questions (essentially an early open-source version of Google’s Answer Box), spam filtering, and highly customizable search results based on user preferences. “Those [were] things that early adopters kind of appreciated,” he says. At the time, Weinberg says, consumer privacy was not a central concern. In 2009, when he made the decision to stop collecting personal search data, it was more a matter of practicality than a principled decision about civil liberties. Instead of storing troves of data on every user and targeting those users individually, DuckDuckGo would simply sell ads against search keywords. Most of DuckDuckGo’s revenue, he explains, is still generated this way. The system doesn’t capitalize on targeted ads, but, Weinberg says, “I think there’s a choice between squeezing out every ounce of profit and making ethical decisions that aren’t at the expense of society.” Until 2011, Weinberg was DuckDuckGo’s sole full-time employee. That year, he pushed to expand the company. He bought a billboard in Google’s backyard of San Francisco that proudly proclaimed, “Google tracks you. We don’t.” (That defiant gesture and others like it were later parodied on HBO’s Silicon Valley.) The stunt paid off in spades, doubling DuckDuckGo’s daily search traffic. Weinberg began courting VC investors, eventually selling a minority stake in the company to Union Square Ventures, the firm that has also backed SoundCloud, Coinbase, Kickstarter, and Stripe. That fall, he hired his first full-time employee, and DuckDuckGo moved out of Weinberg’s house and into the strangest-looking office in all of Paoli, Pennsylvania. Then, in 2013, digital privacy became front-page news. That year, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a series of documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post revealing the existence of the NSA’s PRISM program, which granted the agency unfettered access to the personal data of millions of Americans through a secret back door into the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, and other major internet firms. Though Google denied any knowledge of the program, the reputational damage had been done. DuckDuckGo rode a wave of press coverage, enjoying placement in stories that offered data privacy solutions to millions of newly freaked-out people worried that the government was spying on them. “All of a sudden we were part of this international story,” Weinberg says. The next year, DuckDuckGo turned a profit. Shortly thereafter, Weinberg finally started paying himself a salary. Today, DuckDuckGo employs 55 people, most of whom work remotely from around the world. (On the day I visited, there were maybe five employees in the Paoli office, plus one dog.) This year, the company went through its second funding round of VC funding, accepting a $10 million investment from Canadian firm OMERS. Weinberg insists that both OMERS and Union Square Ventures are “deeply interested in privacy and restoring power to the non-monopoly providers.” Later, via email, Weinberg declined to share DuckDuckGo’s exact revenue, beyond the fact that its 2018 gross revenue exceeded $25 million, a figure the company has chosen to disclose in order to stress that it is subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act. Weinberg feels that the company’s main challenge these days is improving brand recognition. “I don’t think there’s many trustworthy entities on the internet, just straight-up,” he says. “Ads follow people around. Most people have gotten multiple data breaches. Most people know somebody who’s had some kind of identity theft issue. The percentage of people who’ve had those events happen to them has just grown and grown.” The recent investment from OMERS has helped cover the cost of DuckDuckGo’s new app, launched in January 2018. The app, a lightweight mobile web browser for iOS and Android that’s also available as a Chrome plugin, is built around the DuckDuckGo search engine. It gives each site you visit a letter grade based on its privacy practices and has an option to let you know which web trackers — usually ones from Google, Facebook, or Comscore — it blocked from monitoring your browsing activity. After you’ve finished surfing, you can press a little flame icon and an oddly satisfying animated fire engulfs your screen, indicating that you’ve deleted your tabs and cleared your search history. The rest of the recent investment, Weinberg says, has been spent on “trying to explain to people in the world that [DuckDuckGo] exists.” He continues, “That’s our main issue — the vast majority of people don’t realize there’s a simple solution to reduce their [online] footprint.” To that end, DuckDuckGo maintains an in-house consumer advocacy blog called Spread Privacy, offering helpful tips on how to protect yourself online as well as commentary and analysis on the state of online surveillance. Its most recent initiative was a study on how filter bubbles — the term for how a site like Google uses our data to show us what it thinks we want — can shape the political news we consume. Brand recognition is a challenge for a lot of startups offering privacy-focused digital services. After all, the competition includes some of the biggest and most prominent companies in the world: Google, Apple, Facebook. And in some ways, this is an entire new sector of the market. “Privacy has traditionally not been a product; it’s been more like a set of best practices,” says David Temkin, chief product officer for the Brave web browser. “Imagine turning that set of best practices into a product. That’s kind of where we’re going.” Like DuckDuckGo — whose search engine Brave incorporates into its private browsing mode — Brave doesn’t collect user data and blocks ads and web trackers by default. In 2018, Brave’s user base exploded from 1 million to 5.5 million, and the company reached a deal with HTC to be the default browser on the manufacturer’s upcoming Exodus smartphone. Temkin, who first moved out to the Bay Area in the early ’90s to work at Apple, says that the past two decades of consolidation under Google/Facebook/Netflix/Apple/Amazon have radically upended the notion of the internet as a safe haven for the individual. “It’s swung back to a very centralized model,” he says. “The digital advertising landscape has turned into a surveillance ecosystem. The way to optimize the value of advertising is through better targeting and better data collection. And, well, water goes downhill.” In companies such as Brave and DuckDuckGo, Temkin sees a return to the more conscientious attitude behind early personal computing. “I think to an ordinary user, [privacy] is starting to sound like something they do need to care about,” he says. But to succeed, these companies will have to make privacy as accessible and simple as possible. “Privacy’s not gonna win if it’s a specialist tool that requires an expert to wield,” Temkin says. “What we’re doing is trying to package [those practices] in a way that’s empathetic and respectful to the user but doesn’t impose the requirement for knowledge or the regular ongoing annoyance that might go with maintaining privacy on your own.” In November, I decided to switch my personal search querying to DuckDuckGo in order to see whether it was a feasible solution to my online surveillance woes. Physically making the switch is relatively seamless. The search engine is already an optional default in browsers such as Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox, as well as more niche browsers such as Brave and Tor, the latter of which made DuckDuckGo its default search in 2016. Actually using the service, though, can be slightly disorienting. I use Google on a daily basis for one simple reason: It’s easy. When I need to find something online, it knows what to look for. To boot, it gives me free email, which is connected to the free word processor that my editor and I are using to work on this article together in real time. It knows me. It’s only when I consider the implications of handing over a digital record of my life to a massive company that the sense of free-floating dread about digital surveillance kicks in. Otherwise, it’s great. And that’s the exact hurdle DuckDuckGo is trying to convince people to clear. Using DuckDuckGo can feel like relearning to walk after you’ve spent a decade flying. On Google, a search for, say, “vape shop” yields a map of vape shops in my area. On DuckDuckGo, that same search returns a list of online vaporizer retailers. The difference, of course, is the data: Google knows that I’m in Durham, North Carolina. As far as DuckDuckGo is concerned, I may as well be on the moon. That’s not to say using DuckDuckGo is all bad. For one, it can feel mildly revelatory knowing that you’re seeing the same search results that anyone else would. It restores a sense of objectivity to the internet at a time when being online can feel like stepping into The Truman Show — a world created to serve and revolve around you. And I was able to look up stuff I wanted to know about — how to open a vacuum-sealed mattress I’d bought off the internet, the origin of the martingale dog collar, the latest insane thing Donald Trump did — all without the possibility of my search history coming back to haunt me in the form of ads for bedding, dog leashes, or anti-Trump knickknacks. Without personalized results, DuckDuckGo just needs to know what most people are looking for when they type in search terms and serve against that. And most of the time, we fit the profile of most people. When I asked Weinberg if he wanted to displace Google as the top search engine in all the land, he demurred. “I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he says, “but it’s really not our intention, and I don’t expect that to happen.” Instead, he’d like to see DuckDuckGo as a “second option” to Google for people who are interested in maintaining their online anonymity. “Even if you don’t have anything to hide, it doesn’t mean you want people to profit off your information or be manipulated or biased against as a result [of that information],” he says. Even though DuckDuckGo may serve a different market and never even challenge Google head-on, the search giant remains its largest hurdle in the long term. For more than a decade, Google has been synonymous with search. And that association is hard, if not impossible, to break. In the meantime, the two companies are on frosty terms. In 2010, Google obtained the domain duck.com as part of a larger business deal in a company formerly known as Duck Co. For years, the domain would redirect to Google’s search page, despite seeming like something you’d type into your browser while trying to get to DuckDuckGo. After DuckDuckGo petitioned for ownership for nearly a decade, Google finally handed over the domain in December. The acquisition was a minor branding coup for DuckDuckGo — and a potential hedge against accusations of antitrust for Google. That doesn’t mean relations between the two companies have improved. As the Goliath in the room, Google could attempt to undercut DuckDuckGo’s entire business proposition. Over the past few years, even mainstream players have attempted to assuage our privacy anxieties by offering VPNs (Verizon), hosting “privacy pop-ups” (Facebook), and using their billions to fight against state surveillance in court (Microsoft). With some tweaks, Google could essentially copy DuckDuckGo wholesale and create its own privacy-focused search engine with many of the same protections DuckDuckGo has built its business on. As to whether people would actually believe that Google, a company that muscled its way into becoming an integral part of the online infrastructure by selling people’s data, could suddenly transform into a guardian of that data remains to be seen. When it comes to the internet, trust is something easily lost and difficult to regain. In a sense, every time a giant of the internet surveillance economy is revealed to have sold out its customers in some innovatively horrifying way, the ensuing chaos almost serves as free advertising for DuckDuckGo. “The world keeps going in a bad direction, and it makes people think, ‘Hey, I would like to escape some of the bad stuff on the internet and go to a safer place,’” Weinberg says. “And that’s where we see ourselves.” Source
  12. DuckDuckGo, the popular search engine alternative to Google has announced today that its address and map searches on mobile and desktop are now powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework. DuckDuckGo is one of the first companies to rely on MapKit for its data and touts the privacy that the move brings to its users. DuckDuckGo shared the news on its blog today: The company said it is excited to be working with Apple to “set a new standard of trust online, and we hope you’ll enjoy this update.” It is also seeking feedback from users to help improve searches. The update means Apple Maps will be seen in DuckDuckGo as embedded in private search results as well as in the Maps tab. DuckDuckGo highlighted how it keeps all maps queries anonymous: You can read more about anonymous localized search results here. Meanwhile, Apple is working on a massive overhaul to its Maps that have started to trickle out to users in certain regions. Source
  13. DuckDuckGo is now a default search engine option in Chrome Google says its updated options are "based on popularity of search engines in different locales." DuckDuckGo is now one of Chrome's default search engine options. DuckDuckGo DuckDuckGo is now a default search option in Google's Chrome browser. Google included private search engine DuckDuckGo in its updated lists of default search engines for Chrome 73, which the search giant released Tuesday. TechCrunchearlier reported the news. "Starting Chrome M73, we have updated the list of default search engines available in Chrome settings," said a Google spokesperson in an email statement. "The new list is based on popularity of search engines in different locales, determined using publicly available data." To change your default search engine in Chrome, go to Settings then manage search engines. DuckDuckGo now appears in the list of default search engines along with Google, Bing and Yahoo. DuckDuckGo has become popular among users who are concerned about privacy violations. Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo lets users search online anonymously. The private search engine in October said it had reached 30 million searches. DuckDuckGo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Source
  14. DuckDuckGo adds Indian servers and new options The privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo announced the launch of new features and servers recently on the company's Spread Privacy blog. The company added servers in India to better serve Indian users, a new "past year" data range filter, and dark theme refinements to the desktop version of the service. The search engine supported time-based filters for a long time but the options were limited to a maximum length of one month up until now. DuckDuckGo users can activate the "Any Time" filter on search results page to select a date range filter. The new "past year" option is now available; it displays results of the past year only and extends the maximum length to 12 months. DuckDuckGo notes that the "past year" data filter was one of the most requested features of users of the service. The filter lacks options to set custom date ranges for results; Google Search and Bing support the filter while most third-party search engines, including Startpage, don't. The company notes that the implementation was not straightforward as it needed to make sure that the delivered results would still be anonymous. It wasn't straightforward for us to do because we work with a variety of different partners to produce the anonymous search results you see on DuckDuckGo. With their help, we were finally able make it happen! DuckDuckGo is aware that a custom date range is popular as well. It stated that it has no immediate plans to add it but that it may be added in the future. The update brings dark theme refinements next to that. You can activate the dark theme with a click on Settings and the selection of the dark theme icon in the interface that opens. Dark and light themes are not the only themes that are supported by the service. If you open the Theme Settings using the Hamburger menu at the top you will find four more themes listed there including a high contrast, gray, and terminal theme. DuckDuckGo added "a lot of servers" to the Indian subcontinent to improve the performance of the service for Indian users (and users in that region). The connection speed was not the best according to the company and the addition of new servers should improve the experience for users significantly. Source: DuckDuckGo adds Indian servers and new options (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann) If you like this post, then this post.
  15. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey took aim at Google on Wednesday in a cheeky tweet. The tweet read: "I love @DuckDuckGo. My default search engine for a while now. The app is even better!" DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that shows all users the same results for any given search term or terms. It sets itself up as a privacy-focused rival to data-hungry Google. Dorsey has form when it comes to trolling big tech firms, with Facebook a particular target of his ire in recent months. Jack Dorsey isn't a fan of Google search, it seems. The Twitter founder and CEO - who also serves as CEO of mobile payments firm Square - took aim at Google with a cheeky tweet. It read: "I love @DuckDuckGo. My default search engine for a while now. The app is even better!" DuckDuckGo's own Twitter account responded to Dorsey, writing That's great to hear @jack! Happy to have you on the Duck side," followed by a duck emoji. Founded in 2008 in the US, DuckDuckGo is a search engine that prioritizes user privacy, sporting the tagline "Privacy, simplified." It eschews personalised search results and refuses to profile its users. It sets itself as a more privacy-focused alternative to Google search, which famously hoovers up user data to inform its ads. Though DuckDuckGo is a well-visited site in absolute terms, with an Alexa rank of 187 as of November, it's small fry when compared with Google. As such, it says it focuses on returning what it deems to be the best search results, rather than the most search results. It's available as an app both on Google and Apple's app stores. This is not the first time Dorsey has trolled a tech giant in a tweet, with Facebook in particular facing his mockery. A number of recent Dorsey tweets have taken aim at the social media behemoth, including one earlier this month that mocked its recent logo rebrand from lower case to all-caps. Dorsey's tweet read simply "Twitter... from TWITTER." On a more serious note, Dorsey announced in a tweet thread late October that Twitter would be banning all political ads from its platform. Though his announcement didn't mention Facebook by name, the decision was clearly informed by the ongoing firestorm over Facebook's policy of allowing political ads containing lies on its platform. Source
  16. If a site offers HTTPS, DuckDuckGo's Smarter Encryption will take you there. It's increasingly common for the data that passes between your browser and a website's server to be encrypted with HTTPS, which makes it impossible for outside snoops to read. But you don't get that protection if the URL drops that crucial "S" after HTTP. And while some mechanisms do redirect you to an encrypted version of a site, they often do so only after exposing that initial request. The makers of the privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo think there's a better way. Today DuckDuckGo is releasing a feature called Smarter Encryption that combines its existing private search capabilities and tracker blocking service with a new tool to upgrade encryption for more of the sites you visit. It's available on DuckDuckGo's mobile browser for Android and iOS, and through the company's desktop browser extension for Firefox and Chrome. DuckDuckGo is also open sourcing the code behind the feature so other sites and platforms can adopt it as well. First up? Pinterest. "I think people tend to think it’s a less of a problem because a lot of sites automatically redirect you to an encrypted version now, though a lot of sites also still don’t," says Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo's founder and CEO. "We wanted to give people a more comprehensive privacy solution no matter where the internet takes you." DuckDuckGo isn't the first organization to tackle the HTTP upgrading problem. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's HTTPS Everywhere browser extension and Chromium's HSTS Preload List provide similar functionality. The latter is enabled by default across Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Edge, and Internet Explorer. These offerings all function basically the same way, working off a list of sites that offer HTTPS versions to upgrade connections before they're established. But DuckDuckGo's tool has one major difference: Rather than populating a list of upgradable sites manually, Smarter Encryption fills it out automatically using the same web crawling smarts built into DuckDuckGo's private search service. No one needs to add and remove entries from the list on their own; whenever the crawler sees that a site supports HTTPS, it records that as the default for all visitors using Smarter Encryption going forward, regardless of what URL they type or link they click. This automatic element makes the list strikingly comprehensive. Compared to other tools, which have fewer than 150,000 sites on their preload lists, Smarter Encryption already works on 12 million sites, making it more likely that you'll reach for the encrypted version of a given site from the start. Weinberg says DuckDuckGo's auto-populating strategy wasn't as easy to build as he first expected, because of the patchwork of encryption implementations on the web. For example, some sites are only set up to encrypt some of their pages. This means that if Smarter Encryption tries to upgrade your connection to that domain, some functionality and pages may break. It took a number of workarounds—including developing visual tests to automatically assess whether a page looked different after adding encryption upgrading—to make it all work without any browsing disruptions. DuckDuckGo launched a beta of the tool in 2018 to test for any issues. And now it's finally ready for prime time. Search engines and social networks are prime platforms for adding encryption upgrades, because they both incorporate huge numbers of links that are crawler or user-generated and may not include "HTTPS." Pinterest itself is fully encrypted, but implemented Smarter Encryption to protect its users as they click links posted on the platform that lead to outside sites. Pinterest says that after incorporating DuckDuckGo's feature, about 80 percent of outbound traffic routes through HTTPS, up from 30 percent before. "DuckDuckGo was the perfect fit for us because they maintain a comprehensive list of upgradable sites, generated by comparing the HTTP and HTTPS version of a site, and adding a site to the HTTPS upgrade list if the two versions are identical," Pinterest explains in a blog post shared with WIRED. "We can then regularly pull and ingest their list." In an early trial deploying the changes to one percent of its users, the social network found that encryption upgrading didn't erode performance. Smarter Encryption will upgrade more and more of your connections over time, to keep as much of your browsing data safe from prying eyes as possible. Theoretically DuckDuckGo might still be able to access those unencrypted requests, which is something to be aware of. But the company has a strong reputation, and Weinberg says that such behavior would violate its privacy policy. There are a lot of privacy holes on the internet that need plugging and gaps in HTTPS is a prime example. Smarter Encryption is one extra protection, at least, that you can largely set and forget. Source
  17. Google has announced the inaugural winners of its controversial Android “choice screen” search engine auction in Europe, with privacy-focused Google alternative DuckDuckGo emerging as one of the big winners. Microsoft’s Bing, by contrast, faired less well. DuckDuckGo will be one of three alternative search engines offered by Google during new Android phone setups in every European country, while Bing will be an option only in the U.K. However, given that this was a closed auction process, it’s difficult to know which search providers applied for inclusion in which markets — it could be that Microsoft only applied for Bing in the U.K. The story so far By way of a quick recap, EU antitrust regulators hit Google with a record $5 billion fine in 2018 over the way it bundled its services on Android, claiming that Google forced manufacturers to preinstall certain Google apps to gain access to others. While Google (correctly) argued that manufacturers are free to use Android as they wish, given that the operating system is released under an open source license, to offer core services such as YouTube and Google Maps they have to preinstall a broader array of Google apps, including Chrome and Google as the default browser and search engine, respectively. In response to the fine, Google overhauled its Android licensing model in Europe, electing to separate Google Search and Chrome from its other suite of apps and to offer different licenses for each “bundle” — which it would charge for. As part of measures to placate European regulators, Google started suggesting alternative browsers and search engines for Android users, though these were in addition to Chrome and Google Search, which were still set as defaults. The next step toward appeasing regulators was an auction process that would give alternative search engines a better chance to become the default provider on mobile devices in Europe. The winner would agree to pay Google every time a user chose them as the default search engine (regardless of whether the user later changed their choice). Above: Default search example screenshot: Google’s Android Not every Google Search rival was ecstatic about this auction process. Ecosia, the Berlin-based not-for-profit search engine that plants trees with 80% of its surplus income, called this an “affront” to the EU’s ruling the previous year. And Cliqz, a browser that sports its own built-in search engine, said the auction “obstructs the market for competitors.” Needless to say, neither Ecosia nor Cliqz entered the auction process, and as a result they don’t appear as a default choice anywhere in Europe. “We believe this auction is at odds with the spirit of the July 2018 EU Commission ruling,” Ecosia CEO Christian Kroll told VentureBeat. “Internet users deserve a free choice over which search engine they use, and the response of Google with this auction is an affront to our right to a free, open, and federated internet. Ecosia is the largest European search engine, which begs a question: Why is Google able to pick and choose who gets default status on Android? Planting trees in biodiversity hotspots is our priority, this means that biddings processes like this cut out purpose-driven search engines like Ecosia.” The winners by market Above: Android choice screen options in Europe (March to June, 2020) The options vary by country, with Google’s Russian rival Yandex showing up in Estonia and Finland, and meta search engine Info.com, which aggregates results from multiple search providers, appearing as an option in all 31 markets across the European Economic Area (EEA), much like DuckDuckGo. Upon selecting an option, the user will then access that search engine by default through the search widget on their device’s homescreen, and it will also become the default search engine in Chrome if it’s installed. Google will also install the Android app of the chosen search engine provider if it isn’t already installed. These options will start showing up on new or factory-reset devices from March 1, 2020 for a four-month period, after which Google will repeat the auction process again for each quarter. This appears to be at odds with Google’s original plan — back in August it said that it would operate the auction on an annual basis. At any rate, the entire auction process could still come unstuck, with Ecosia already planning to raise its concerns with European regulators. “Now that this process has come to a conclusion, we’ll raise our broader concerns over Google’s monopolistic behaviour with European Union legislators — we’ll also look at other ways to work with regulators to challenge this result,” Kroll continued. “If this were to go unchallenged, we firmly believe that this would set a dangerous precedent over how large technology firms address competition rulings.” Source
  18. DuckDuckGo launches Tracker Radar and open sources its code The privacy search engine company, DuckDuckGo, has announced the availability of Tracker Radar which helps users boost their privacy online. Users can benefit from the tool by using DuckDuckGo’s apps and extensions. To block trackers with Tracker Radar, DuckDuckGo periodically crawls a large set of the top websites. It then looks at how often a resource is used in a third-party context, how often it sets cookies, how it uses browser APIs, and how likely it is that those APIs will identify individual users. With this method, DuckDuckGo can keep its list regularly up-to-date and it can discover new tracking techniques more easily. Aside from releasing Tracker Radar for end-users, DuckDuckGo is also open-sourcing the code which developers can use to spin tools of their own and create custom tracker blocklists. The company said that Tracker Radar will also be useful for researchers that are interested in learning more about how users are tracked around the web. DuckDuckGo highlighted that typical tracker blockers either use blocklists which are crowd-sourced and therefore subject to priorities and bias, or use heuristics. DuckDuckGo said heuristics are problematic because they build an identifiable list of things to block. If you want to use this tool, you’ll find it built into the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser mobile apps on iOS and Android as well as in the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials desktop browser extensions on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Source: DuckDuckGo launches Tracker Radar and open sources its code (Neowin)
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