Google Tracks You – DuckDuckGo DOES NOT
You share your most intimate secrets with your search engine without even thinking: medical, financial and personal issues, along with all the day to day things that make you, well, you. All of that personal information should be private, but on Google it’s not. On Google, your searches are tracked, mined, and packaged up into a data profile for advertisers to follow you around the Internet through those intrusive and annoying ever-present banner ads, using Google’s massive ad networks, embedded across millions of sites and apps.
In fact, it’s a myth that you need to track people to make money in web search. When you search ‘car’ we can show you a car ad without knowing anything about you. That’s how we make money and it doesn’t involve tracking because it is based on the keyword and not the person. Google could do this too; they just chose not to— all that tracking is to power their ad networks so that ads can follow you around the Internet using your search history and other information they have on you.
So-called incognito mode won’t protect you either. That’s another myth. “Incognito” mode isn’t really incognito at all. It’s an extremely misleading name and in my opinion should be changed. All it does is delete your local browsing history after your session on your device, but does nothing from stopping any website you visit, including Google, from tracking you via your IP address and other tracking mechanisms like browser fingerprinting.
Google Trackers Lurking Everywhere!
Google tracks you on more than just their search engine. You may realize they also track you on YouTube, Gmail, Chrome, Android, Gmaps, and all the other services they run. For those, we recommend using private alternatives like DuckDuckGo for search. Yes, you can live Google-free. I’ve been doing it for many years.
What you may not realize, though, is Google trackers are actually lurking behind the scenes on 75% of the top million websites. To give you a sense of how large that is, Facebook is the next closest with 25%. It’s a good bet that any random site you land on the Internet will have a Google tracker hiding on it. Between the two of them, they are truly dominating online advertising, by some measures literally making up 74%+ of all its growth. A key component of how they have managed to do that is through all these hidden trackers.
Google Analytics is installed on most sites, tracking you behind the scenes, letting website owners know who is visiting their sites, but also feeding that information back to Google. Same for the ads themselves, with Google running three of the largest non-search ad networks installed on millions of sites and apps: Adsense, Admob, and DoubleClick.
You know those ads that creepily follow you around everywhere? Most of those are actually run through these Google ad networks, where they let advertisers target you against your search history, browsing history, location history and other personal information they collect. Even less well known is they also enable advertisers like airlines to charge you different prices based upon your personal information.
These ads are not only annoying — they are literally designed to manipulate you through targeting to make you buy more things, and just showing them to you is an act of Google profiting off of your personal information.
At DuckDuckGo, we’ve expanded beyond our roots in search, to protect you no matter where you go on the Internet. Our DuckDuckGo browser extension and mobile app is available for all major browsers and devices, and blocks these Google trackers, along with the ones from Facebook and countless other data brokers. It does even more to protect you as well like providing smarter encryption.
Get Unbiased Search Results Outside the Google Bubble
When you search, you expect unbiased results, but that’s not what you get on Google. On Google, you get results tailored to what they think you’re likely to click on, based on the data profile they’ve built on you over time from all that tracking I described above.
That may appear at first blush to be a good thing, but when most people say they want personalization in a search context they actually want localization. They want local weather and restaurants, which can actually be provided without tracking, like we do at DuckDuckGo. That’s because approximate location info is automatically embedded by your computer in the search request, which we can use to serve you local results and immediately throw away without tracking you.
Beyond localization, personalized results are dangerous because to show you results they think you’ll click on, they must filter results they think you’ll skip. That’s why it’s called the Filter Bubble.
So if you have political leanings one way or another, you’re more likely to get results you already agree with, and less likely to ever see opposing viewpoints. In the aggregate this leads to increased echo chambers that are significantly contributing to our increasingly polarized society.
This Filter Bubble is especially pernicious in a search context because you have the expectation that you’re seeing what others are seeing, that you’re seeing the “results.” We’ve done studies over the years where we have people search for the same topics on Google at the same time and in “Incognito” mode, and found they are significantly tailored.