DuckDuckGo is launching updated versions of its browser extension and mobile app, with the promise of keeping internet users safe from snooping “beyond the search box.”
The company’s flagship product, its privacy-focused search engine, will remain the same, but the revamped extension and app will offer new tools to help users keep their web-browsing as safe and private as possible. These include grade ratings for websites, factoring in their use of encryption and ad tracking networks, and offering summaries of their terms of service (with summaries provided by third-party Terms of Service Didn’t Read). The app and extension are available for Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android.
The ability to block ad tracking networks is probably the most important feature here. These networks are used by companies like Google and Facebook to follow users around the web, stitching together their browsing history to create a more accurate profile for targeted advertising. DuckDuckGo says its software will “expose and block” these trackers when it can find them. Although, in the cat and mouse game of advertising vs. privacy tech, it won’t always be able to catch them all.
DuckDuckGo has long been a small fish in a big pond (or should that be a small duck), but its pitch to users continues to prove popular. At the beginning of 2017 it celebrated 10 billion searches since its creation in 2009. This figure now stands at 16 billion — an increase of more than 50 percent in less than a year.
According to DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg, this shows the appetite for privacy online is only getting stronger. And, says Weinberg, the more people that use tools like DuckDuckGo’s, the more tech companies will be forced to reconsider their business model. “We’ll collectively raise the Internet’s privacy grade, ending the widespread use of invasive tracking,” writes Weinberg. It’s ambitious to say the least.