#cyberSAFE Leaders Series, Gabe Weinberg and DuckDuckGo: A Search Engine that Respects Your Privacy

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Editor’s note: This blog is the third of PRIVATE WiFi’s #CyberSAFE Leaders Series. Every Friday during National Internet Safety Month this June we will publish a feature story highlighting the work of a leader in the world of cyber safety (read the first and second installments). This week we profile Gabe Weinberg, the CEO and Founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not track their users and is committed to consumer privacy.

Gabe Weinberg founded a new kind of search engine in 2008 based on a radical idea: search engines shouldn’t track their users or collect their personal information.

His creation, called DuckDuckGo (named after the popular Duck Duck Goose childhood game) does not store your IP address, does not log your personal information, and only uses cookies if absolutely necessary. They released an eye-catching billboard in San Francisco in 2011 which simply said: “Google tracks you. We don’t.”

Their privacy policy? It’s simple: they don’t collect or share any of your personal information. This idea must be catching on, because in 2013, DuckDuckGo hosted over one billion web searches.

Do People Really Care About Privacy?

While many people claim to care about their online privacy, most of us continue to use such services as Gmail and Facebook, although it’s widely known that both companies collect and sell your personal information to advertisers. So we wanted to hear Gabe’s take on this seeming contradiction. Does he believe that people really care about protecting their privacy online?

“We know people care from the ongoing attention to privacy since the NSA revelations, and before that, with ads following you around the Internet,” states Weinberg. “When people find a service that protects their privacy and can easily switch, they try such services and stick to them.”

“Our traffic has grown by 300 percent since the NSA revelations began and we did more than a billion searches in 2013 which shows people can get both great results and great privacy at the same time.”

With the Edward Snowden leaks revealing the ways in which our government is tracking us, and the high profile hacking of sensitive consumer information at Target and other retailers, the past year has shown just how insecure the Internet really is.

According to Weinberg “…our data is not safe. And it is not just governments. I’m sure you’ve noticed ads following you around the internet? That’s the result of corporate tracking from companies like Google.”

“And that’s really just the start. What you may not realize yet is that you can be charged (and probably are already being charged) higher prices based on your unique data profile.”

The Future of Online Privacy

We are at a crossroads in regards to online privacy: since the Edward Snowden revelations, our society appears to be in the midst of a reevaluation in the ways in which our government and corporations track us via the technology we use every day.

What’s less clear is where we are heading. Will we decide to respect and value individual privacy or continue our march into a brave new world where it’s basically impossible to keep anything private?

Weinberg believes that “the attention to privacy is still heightened over a year after the Snowden revelations so it’s a great sign that people are still majorly concerned. No one can be sure where it’s headed but there are certainly reasons for every person to take part in the concern.”

If you are also concerned with being tracked, DuckDuckGo has set up a great resource that makes protecting your privacy very simple: http://fixtracking.com/.

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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.