DuckDuckGo has been forced to deny accusations it’s using browser fingerprinting to track its users. Given that DuckDuckGo’s whole reason for being is not collecting personal data on its users, an accusation such as this could be damaging if left unchecked.
DuckDuckGo Promises to Protect Your Privacy
For the uninitiated, DuckDuckGo (DDG) is a search engine just like Google or Bing. However, the major difference is DuckDuckGo’s promise to protect your privacy. So, unlike its rivals, DuckDuckGo “does not collect or share personal information”.
Unlike other search engines, DuckDuckGo literally delivers search results based on the keywords used. And while it will display ads to pay the bills and make a little profit on top, the company claims these too are purely based on the keywords people are using.
Is DuckDuckGo Using Browser Fingerprinting?
Cue one disgruntled user in the Whonix forums who has discovered DuckDuckGo uses “the Canvas DOMRect API on their search engine”. The poster claims he verified this using the CanvasBlocker Firefox add-on by Korbinian Kapsner.
Canvas identification could be used in browser fingerprinting, which is where websites and advertisers collect identifiable information about your browser. The poster then used this to claim that DuckDuckGo “are without question data brokers”.
DuckDuckGo served over 9 Billion private searches in 2018 (and is on pace to shatter that record in 2019)!
Despite our traffic growth, though, the number of personal profiles we store remains unchanged.
— DuckDuckGo (@DuckDuckGo) January 3, 2019
DuckDuckGo has denied browser fingerprinting. Brian Stoner, DDG’s VP of Search, replied to the forum post, saying, “Many ‘fingerprint’ protection extensions take a scorched earth approach, blocking any browser API that could be exploited by a bad actor.”
DDG founder and CEO Gabe Weinberg has since told TechCrunch that this is a “false positive”. He insisted DuckDuckGo only uses getBoundingClientRect() to “determine size of browser and how to layout the page,” and that’s the likely culprit.
DuckDuckGo Is Growing Ever More Popular
DuckDuckGo is growing in popularity with each passing month. In January 2017 DDG celebrated 10 billion searches since launch in 2008. And yet in 2018 alone people conducted 9 billion searches using DuckDuckGo. That’s some crazy growth right there.