DuckDuckGo chooses to improve its products without sacrificing user privacy

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DuckDuckGo, an internet privacy company, empowers users to seamlessly take control of their personal information online, without any tradeoffs. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store IP addresses and doesn’t create unique cookies. It doesn’t even collect or share any type of personal information.

The Improvements

Lately, the company came up with some improvements. If you ever happen to search for  DuckDuckGo, you might have come across a “&atb=” URL parameter in the web address at the top of your browser. This parameter allows DuckDuckGo to anonymously  A/B (split) test product changes. To explain this further, let’s take, for example, users in the A group would get blue links and users in the B group would get red links. From this, it would be easier for the team at DuckuckGo to measure how the usage of DuckDuckGo has been impacted by different color links.

The team at DuckDuckGo also measures the engagement of specific events on the page (e.g. A misspelling message is displayed, when it is clicked). It allows them to run experiments where they can test different misspelling messages and use CTR (click through rate) to determine the message’s efficacy. The requests made for improving DuckDuckGo are anonymous and the information is used only for improving the products.

Similar “atb.js” or “exti” requests are made by browser extensions and mobile apps. The browser extensions and mobile apps will only send one type of these requests a day. This means an approximate count of the devices which accessed DuckDuckGo can be known. But this would be done without knowing anything about those devices or the searches made by users.

These requests are all fully encrypted, such that nobody else can see them except for DuckDuckGo. There is no personal information attached to the request. So, DuckDuckGo cannot ever tell what individual people are doing since everyone is anonymous. The team has developed systems from scratch, instead of relying on third-party services. This is how they stick to their privacy promise of not collecting and leaking any personal information.

This move by the company centered around anonymity might benefit a lot to the company, as data breach incidents on various organizations are trending lately.  With the daily searches crossing the 30 million mark, the company has already experienced 50% growth in the last year. These improvements prove to be cherry on the cake! Could DDG possibly pose a real threat to the leading search engine, Google?

Read more about this news on the official website of DuckDuckGo.

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