Why You Need DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Browser

Faster, safer, duck-ier

  • Privacy-first search service DuckDuckGo is about to launch a Mac web browser. 
  • DuckDuckGo’s browser runs on Safari’s WebKit engine.
  • It downloads 60 percent less data than Chrome.
DuckDuckGo browser beta for Mac

DuckDuckGo

The privacy-first DuckDuckGo browser is now (nearly) available for the Mac. 

DuckDuckGo’s browser has been around on mobile for quite a while. iPhone and iPad users, for instance, can use it to browse privately, blocking trackers and other annoyances, and even set it to annihilate all collected cookies and history when you quit. Mac users can already get much of this with DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials, which works through a browser extension, but soon they’ll be able to browse privately with zero setup. 

"Search engines like Google capture your IP address, cookies, and basically any form of persistent identifiers that are unique to users. The risk here is to privacy. These attributes allow for user identification based on their search history, [IP address], etc., and are used to target advertising," Apporwa Verma, senior "appsec" engineer at cybersecurity company Cobalt, told Lifewire via email.

Privacy First

Extensions can help with privacy, and Safari also provides a "content blocker" framework that lets third-party blockers integrate with the browser to block trackers, ads, adult sites, and more, all without ever having access to your browser activity.

But the advantage of a fully integrated privacy-first browser is that you don’t have to do anything other than use it. No setup, no wondering whether you really trust those extensions. All you need is to switch your default browser to DuckDuckGo.

DuckDuckGo browser blocking facebook trackers

DuckDuckGo

"A browser like DuckDuckGo, Brave, or Tor, is better because they were built from the ground up with privacy put first. They force HTTPS encryption to be used as much as possible and block websites from keeping any trackers on you to retain your information for advertising purposes," Tech blogger and smart home expert, Patrick Sinclair, told Lifewire via email. 

The obvious catch is you have to trust DuckDuckGo. Mac users who use the built-in Safari browser should do some research before switching, but anyone already using a third-party browser like Google Chrome is almost certainly better off with DuckDuckGo. 

Because DuckDuckGo’s browser blocks so much intrusive junk, there’s an added side benefit—it’s faster. Unlike most other major browsers, DuckDuckGo blocks trackers before they load, not after, speeding up page load times. In fact, DuckDuckGo says that it uses "about 60% less data than Chrome."

Regardless of the browser you use, you always need to be careful with how you use it.

And that’s not all. DuckDuckGo’s browser can block and answer those annoying cookie/permission requests for you and also let you know which websites are the worst offenders, privacy-wise. 

"DuckDuckGo even has an especially useful feature where it ranks websites based on how much information they try to keep on you, so you can get a good idea which ones are more invasive than others," says Sinclair.

But Don’t I Already Have Incognito Mode?

Chrome has Incognito mode, Safari has Private Browsing, so why do you need another browser? Because those features do nothing to protect you from trackers or anything else on the internet. All they do is remove your browsing history and delete related data like cookies from your machine. That makes them great for browsing adult sites on a shared computer or keeping other sites out of your browser history, but that’s it.

"As for the misconceptions over incognito mode," says Sinclair, "browsers usually mention on the landing page for incognito mode that this won't prevent websites and their ISP from tracking their activity. Users are strongly advised to take note of that."

"Your activity isn’t hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or your internet service provider," says Google’s help page for Incognito mode. 

DuckDuckGo

Still, despite this, it seems a lot of people I meet still think Incognito mode offers some protection from tracking or other privacy violations, and that misconception certainly doesn’t do Google’s ad-tech business any harm. 

When it comes out of its invite-only test phase, DuckDuckGo will be a great option for many people. Once you’ve installed it, you can forget about it. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be 100% safe out there. Even with all that protection, you should still be careful about which sites you visit. 

"Regardless of the browser you use, you always need to be careful with how you use it. No browser or extension is entirely un-hackable or un-trackable," Kristen Bolig of SecurityNerd told Lifewire via email.

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