Search engine DuckDuckGo announced June 23 that it had surpassed 10 million daily searches for the first time, a major milestone for an underdog in the Google-dominated search market.
The Pennsylvania-based company’s unique selling point is that it protects user privacy by not tracking or profiling its users.
That has made it increasingly popular, especially since news of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs broke in 2013. DuckDuckGo has grown by 600% since then, and now handles around three billion search queries each year.
Still, that figure is minuscule when compared to search giant Google. Recent figures show that Google captures more than 64% of U.S. desktop searches; DuckDuckGo captures less than 1%.
That’s despite the fact that a Pew poll taken earlier this year found that a full 40% of Americans think that their search engines shouldn’t be collecting information about their activity. Around 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine, meaning that search engine tracking is in many ways tantamount to general Internet tracking.
Google and other search engines that track online activity claim that it allows them to deliver better results, tailoring them to the needs of individual users (on DuckDuckGo and other privacy-conscious search engines, results are based only on the keywords users type in). But more and more concerns have been raised regarding the ethical use of the massive amounts of insight these companies have into searchers’ personal habits.
In fact, a group of former Google engineers who have now created an app to protect online users from tracking just recently filed a complaint with European regulators, claiming that Google banned the app from the Play Store in an effort to dissuade users from claiming greater control over their privacy.
The complaint alleges that Google’s business “consists almost entirely of gathering data about the preferences, locations, and behavior of ordinary people and monetizing that data through the sale of targeted advertisements on the Internet,” and that Google is therefore leveraging “the full weight of its market power to deny users control over tracking, particularly mobile tracking.”
In a blog post celebrating the 10 million mark, DuckDuckGo acknowledged that “only a few percent of people have even heard of DuckDuckGo and other private alternatives.” The company also asked for public help educating people as to their privacy options online: “Getting the word out is our biggest challenge and we could really use your help. Every conversation helps.”