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Lots of people know DuckDuckGo as the privacy-focused search engine. Whether you like DuckDuckGo because you’re sick of Google or just love its cool bang feature, there are plenty of reasons to check it out.
Now here’s another: DuckDuckGo just launched updated browser extensions and mobile apps to help keep you safe and your data more private online. Let’s take a look at what they offer.
DuckDuckGo’s New Browser Extensions
DuckDuckGo offered browser extensions prior to this major update, but they were pretty basic. They set your default search engine as DuckDuckGo and allowed you to quickly access the website to search, but not much else.
Now, the new extension called DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials has a lot more to offer. Install it in your browser of choice, and DuckDuckGo protects you in a variety of ways.
The first, and most obvious, change you’ll notice is that the extension sets your default search engine to DuckDuckGo.
Unfortunately, due to the way that Chrome handles extensions that modify your default search engine, you can’t change this setting without completely disabling the extension. Firefox doesn’t have this problem. You can change the search engine after installing and the extension will work fine.
Of course, if you’re interested in the privacy that DuckDuckGo offers, you probably don’t want to search with Google regularly anyway.
When you’re clicking around the web, it’s easy to forget that most sites don’t take your privacy seriously.
To address this, DuckDuckGo’s new extension offers a privacy score for every website you visit. You’ll see it displayed as the extension icon in the upper-right corner of your browser and can click it to see more details.
The lowest score is F, while the best is an A. Click a site’s score in the dialog box, and you’ll see more details on why it received that score.
If some feature of the DuckDuckGo extension improves the privacy score, you’ll see that reflected here. For instance, if the add-on blocks a major tracking network or forces an encrypted connection, the score could improve.
Trackers and Privacy Practices
If you’ve ever wanted to see exactly who’s tracking you online, you can get a peek with this extension. Click the X Tracker Networks Blocked entry on the dialog and you can see what’s embedded into the website. You’ll see a lot of Google and social media sites here.
DuckDuckGo’s extension also forces encryption to websites where available. Like the HTTPS Anywhere extension, this enables a secure connection if a website offers it.
Rounding out the extension’s features are a DuckDuckGo search box and a Site Privacy Protection slider. Disable this to whitelist a site and the extension won’t run on that domain. This is useful if you find the extension breaks some sites.
DuckDuckGo’s New Mobile Apps
For increased privacy on the go, you should also take a look at the revamped mobile apps from DuckDuckGo.
Like the browser extension, the mobile apps do most of their work in the background. Open it up, and you’ll get a simple DuckDuckGo search page to find whatever you’re looking for.
You’ll see a privacy score for every website in the top bar that you can tap for more information.
The Fire icon in the menu bar lets you instantly erase all your browsing data and close your active tabs. However, we couldn’t find any way to open a new tab in our testing, and there’s no history menu. This button makes it easy to “reset” the browser, but we’re not sure what exactly it’s deleting.
DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser rounds out with a basic bookmark function so you can easily jump to your favorite sites.
Overall, the DuckDuckGo browser isn’t full-featured enough to become your default. However, it’s a good idea to keep it around for when you want to search something without being tracked. Opening DuckDuckGo to search for sensitive medical or personal questions is worth it.
Are DuckDuckGo’s Apps and Extensions Worth It?
Overall, DuckDuckGo’s new browser extensions and mobile apps are solid offerings, but not anything groundbreaking.
The company intends it as an all-in-one privacy solution, as explained in the announcement blog post:
“To date, cobbling together an effective privacy solution has required researching complicated technologies, installing multiple add-ons and apps on each device, and often worsening your internet experience. Others have been unfortunately misled by supposed simple solutions. Think ‘Incognito’ mode blocks Google from watching what you’re doing? Think again.”
This is accurate. DuckDuckGo’s extension combines the forced encryption of HTTPS Everywhere, the tracker blocking of apps like Disconnect, and private search. If you like having one extension that does it all, you might prefer to install this one instead of three separate extensions to get the same effect.
The mobile app is bare-bones but effective. Firefox Focus offers a similar package with more features that you might prefer. And the company’s note about private browsing is right: websites can easily track you even using private or incognito browsing.
If you’re really privacy-conscious, you should skip these extensions and install a completely private web browser.
Will You Try DuckDuckGo’s New Apps?
We’ve seen what DuckDuckGo’s new apps set out to accomplish and how they work. If you’re a DuckDuckGo fan, give them a try and see if you appreciate what’s new.
But if you already use a privacy extension or browser and are happy with it, there’s not much reason to jump to DuckDuckGo’s new offering. Regardless, it’s great that this privacy-focused company is improving its products!
For more privacy on the go, check out the best Android apps to protect you.
Have you tried any of the new DuckDuckGo apps? What do you think of them? Share your favorite privacy apps and extensions down with us in the comments!