by Ian Bush
PAOLI, Pa. (CBS) — In the days since the NSA’s citizen surveillance program was leaked (see related story), a Chester County-based company has seen a surge in traffic to its website: a search engine that’s an alternative to Google.
It’s what DuckDuckGo.com doesn’t do that’s key.
“We don’t track our users,” says founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg.
He says people don’t intend to leave a digital trail, but that’s exactly what the big guys such as Google and Bing collect — and profit from, with the promise that they deliver more relevant results.
“All the big tech companies — when you visit a site, they’re storing information about what you do on that site,” he explains. “What we do is we literally throw away the information that ties it back to you, so everything you do on our site is completely anonymous.”
He says searches on the site are up 70 percent since the “Prism” program was made public.
“To put that in more perspective, it took us 435 days — a little over a year — to go from one million to two million searches a day,” Weinberg says, “and only eight days — the last eight days — to go from two to three million.”
If the NSA or another government agency came knocking on their door, looking for information from their server farms around the world?
“If they actually somehow got all our data, it wouldn’t be useful to them,” says Weinberg. “Which is why they never come to us. Because all we have is completely anonymous stuff. And we haven’t received an order. The big tech companies, to their credit, they do try to defend these orders as much as possible, but the reality is if there is a valid court order, you have to hand over data. And they store a lot of data that can be tied back to you, whereas we store none.”
Google says it handles more than three billion searches per day. That’s plenty of personal habit for an upstart like DuckDuckGo to battle — with piles of advertising dollars also to be won.
“It is difficult to compete when there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room,” admits Weinberg. “But a lot of that is through word of mouth. We focus on the instant-answer piece, where you can get information faster and with less effort. People get on it, they like it, and start telling their friends and family.”
Weinberg invites you to compare results with your go-to search engine at DuckDuckGo.com.