Bonum Certa Men Certa

DuckDuckGo’s HQ is Smaller Than My Apartment

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

When I was perusing DuckDuckGo’s corporate website for their explanation of a tracker that they use which my Web browsers block, I found their corporate headquarters address.



The tracker is called Improving DuckDuckGo, and of course they always have explanations for everything they do that’s creepy, and they get caught lying all of the time. And of course, Techrights has pointed out things like this before.



The most concerning facts are that they’re US-based (a Five Eyes country with no decent privacy laws at the state or federal levels), and can be compelled to track you by law enforcement, and that they host on Microsoft Azure and also scrape Bing for your search results. Thus, Microsoft would see your IP address on both transactions and can log your activities on DuckDuckGo quite easily, using nothing else, unless you’re on some sort of a VPN that millions of people use (like I am).



But I googled (to get a Street View image) their address, 20 Paoli Pike Paoli, PA 19301, and it’s basically a small building that they share with a dentist’s office.



Due to copyright restrictions on the images, I can’t reproduce them here, but you have to go see this. Just trust me.



The building is so small that it’s like a one bedroom apartment with some DuckDuckGo images on the side.



I mentioned this to Roy Schestowitz in #techrights on irc.techrights.org and he replied that they don’t have to have much of a physical presence considering that they use Microsoft web hosting and scrape Microsoft Bing (which isn’t a very good search engine, privacy aside).



It was creepy enough when they used Amazon AWS, and it’s creepier now that they use Microsoft for both ends of the transaction.



DuckDuckGo claims that they have their own web crawling bot and that they’re not just Bing with different artwork, but for the most part, if you search both side by side, you see very little difference in what comes back.



DuckDuckGo has recently been advertising heavily on Chicago radio stations, including the rock station saying “The DuckDuckGo for privacy traffic report.”.



I don’t think they’re very private. They may be a little bit better than Google on privacy, but a lot of that certainly isn’t by choice.



Google got as big as it is by dominating search and paying off everyone to default to it, and then propping up other projects with that cash until they stood on their own. Google’s the biggest ad network on the internet, and the only advantages, I think, that DuckDuckGo, gives you, in a major way, vs. that is that they don’t have the scale of Google to insert trackers all over the web and DuckDuckGo doesn’t require you to sign in, in order to use much of anything on it.



Years ago, Richard Stallman mentioned that signing into Google to search with it was a bad idea, and he’s right. One of the reasons Google starts popping up annoying CAPTCHA images if you use a VPN is so you will give up and sign in, and then whenever they put an ad or a beacon on another site, it associates itself with you and your search traffic.



I have a GMail account, but I don’t sign into Google in my browsers. My email clients support signing in via OAuth and then I can pull in my mail without signing in. I also block most of their third party stuff in my adblock settings, and I use a VPN.



But Google still tracks. They and Facebook and Microsoft figure out dozens of ways to track in case you block any of those methods, something will work.

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