Most Search Engines Know Who and Where You Are
While browser tracking might be in the news and finally making some traction in the name of privacy, search engine tracking is a whole different beast.
Every time you enter a search term into most of the common search engines (probably Google, maybe Bing), you’re sending three things to the company: your IP address, your User Agent String (identifying your browser), and your search request. That’s enough information to identify who and where you are, and then over time what you like and dislike. Companies build whole portfolios about you based on your search habits alone.
We Promise to Forget the Things We Learned
And let’s be clear, the service does collect data. But as spelled out in points 3.5 through 3.7, OneSearch promises to forget what it learned about you. The company sees and stores your IP address, User-Agent, and Search Query, and initially, it keeps all of that information together—just like Google and Bing.
But then it separates the info to different servers to dissociate who you are with what you searched. Eventually, OneSearch says it will delete your IP address entirely—but Bing won’t. It’s right there in point 3.7:
The Search Provider continues to store your IP Address, Search Query and UA for the purpose of Network Traffic Protection. After four days the Search Provider Obfuscates the IP Address
So Bing (referred to as “The Search Provider” above) will keep your information and keep it all together. But eventually, it will obfuscate (not delete) your IP Address. Network Traffic Protection is essentially the process of knowing where to send your search results so you can see them. It’s unclear why OneSearch or Bing would need to hold onto that information after you’ve finished searching.
OneSearch says it won’t target ads based on your search history, just your current search term. And the promise to forget who you are should ensure that. But it’s not promising to delete your search terms or your user-agent data. That’s obvious because despite “not tracking search history,” the search engine offers “trending searches.”
All-in-all, that’s an overly complicated way of not learning about you. It seems like it’d be easier to not learn about you in the first place—which is where DuckDuckGo comes into play.
When you search at DuckDuckGo, we don’t know who you are and there is no way to tie your searches together.
When you access DuckDuckGo (or any Web site), your Web browser automatically sends information about your computer, e.g. your User agent and IP address.
Because this information could be used to link you to your searches, we do not log (store) it at all. This is a very unusual practice, but we feel it is an important step to protect your privacy.
That’s a clear, distinct difference between OneSearch’s policy and DuckDuckGo’s policy. OneSearch promises to learn about you and then forget about you. It will store your information for a while, and then take some steps to make that fact sound better. DuckDuckGo just never learns about you. It never stores your info.
Here’s another sentence from DuckDuckGo’s policy that makes a huge difference: “At DuckDuckGo, no cookies are used by default.” What’s OneSearch’s policy on using cookies? It doesn’t say.
Just Use DuckDuckGo
If you want to use a search engine that won’t monetize your life history the choice is clear, just use DuckDuckGo.