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Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Washington Post: Ducking Google in search engines

    The Washington Post takes an in-depth look at DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track users and aims to be a competitor to Google.

    A start-up taking on Google in search is much like a raft taking on a cruise ship as a vacation option. But [Gabriel] Weinberg is not delusional. With money lining his pockets from selling a start-up for $10 million, Weinberg bet there was a place in the market for a product capitalizing on users’ emerging annoyances with Google — its search results gamed by marketers; its pages cluttered with ads; every query tracked, logged and personalized to the point of creepiness.

    He called his little search engine project DuckDuckGo, after the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose. (Instead of “Just Google it,” think “Just Duck it.”) [...]

    So: DuckDuckGo does not track users. It doesn’t generate search results based on a user’s previous interests, potentially filtering out relevant information. It is not cluttered with ads. In many ways, DuckDuckGo is an homage the original Google — a pure search engine — and its use is soaring, with searches up from 10 million a month in October 2011 to 45 million this past October. The growth has attracted attention and cash from Union Square Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Twitter. [...]

    The attention to DuckDuckGo comes as U.S. and European Union officials are stepping up scrutiny into Google’s search practices, which have been criticized for unfairly elbowing out competitors’ content and results in favor of its own. Earlier this year, in a response to criticism that it was acting monopolistically, Google publicly identified DuckDuckGo as a competitor — a move that pleased and entertained Weinberg but that also reflected a bit of hyperbole about just how close DuckDuckGo is to truly competing.

    Google processes billions of searches a day. DuckDuckGo processes millions. [...]

    Practicality. That’s what Weinberg was after when he started DuckDuckGo. He wanted to build a search engine that people could use quickly and purely. He wanted to focus especially on the first two or three results that users saw, but he didn’t have a lot of manpower to build a search engine from scratch. Weinberg decided to use publicly available search results from Yahoo — which is now fueled by Bing — for the bulk of his searches and use his programming talents to curate the top few links. He wanted those links to provide answers.

    Going to Google and typing “calories in a banana” will produce a page of links about bananas. Going to DuckDuckGo and typing “calories in a banana” will produce an answer: 105. The answer comes from WolframAlphra, a computational database that Weinberg linked to DuckDuckGo.

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