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After NSA Leaks, “Private” Search Engines Get More Traffic

Submitted by on June 23, 2013 – 6:50 pm3 Comments
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Following the revelation of widespread domestic data collection by the NSA, so-called “private” search engines, which do not collect user data or browsing histories, have seen their traffic drastically increase. But the alternative services still lack anywhere near the volume needed to make them challengers to giants like Google.

RawStory reports that search engine DuckDuckGo saw double the search volumes recently compared to this same time last year. Companies like Dutch-based Ixquick (StartPage) and California’s Blekko reported similar trends.

Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo, says the “NSA story played into the trend of people’s fears” about online tracking.

But Danny Sullivan at industry blog Search Engine Land put those numbers in important context. He points out that DuckDuckGo was processing at the rate of 60 million worldwide searches a month just before the NSA allegations broke on June 6th, when it jumped to 3 million searches a day, or 90 million searches a month.

Google handles over 13 billion searches a month in the US alone.

So DuckDuckGo is still no where near the search giant, or even to Bing or Yahoo. Sullivan charitably suggests that DuckDuckGo might be able to overtake or replace the ailing AOL, which still handles over 266 million searches a month

Sullivan also points out that this isn’t the first time search engines have dealt with privacy: competitors tried to use privacy as a weak point for attacking Google after an uproar in 2007, only to quickly revert back to their old ways. He even adds that Google’s voluntary privacy and encryption ventures are pretty good.

On June 6th, the Washington Post and the Guardian reported that the NSA PRISM program had direct access to user data through companies like Google and Microsoft. All companies and several government sources have denied those allegations completely or in part, in contrast to allegations of data mining of Verizon customers.

What do you think? Will private internet searching succeed this time?

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