The DuckDuckGo Controversy

Recently, there is a lot of noise about DuckDuckGo now being an arm of Bill Gates and a “turncoat” for censoring search results in an effort to combat misinformation. Should you still use DuckDuckGo?

First, there are two issues with DuckDuckGo that should not be conflated. We will look at them one by one.

How does it work?

DuckDuckGo is primarily a meta-search engine. By that, I mean it derives its search results from other search engines. According to them,
DuckDuckGo gets its results from over four hundred sources. These include hundreds of vertical sources delivering niche Instant Answers, DuckDuckBot (our crawler) and crowd-sourced sites (like Wikipedia, stored in our answer indexes). We also of course have more traditional links in the search results, which we also source from multiple partners, though most commonly from Bing (and none from Google).
Although DuckDuckGo has its own web-crawler (and thus, behave like a traditional search engine to a certain extent), it gets most of its search results from Bing.

Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. And Microsoft used to be run by Bill Gates, who was its board member until March 2020.


DuckDuckGo prides itself in being a search engine that does not build a profile of you by collecting information about you. This is their way to differentiate their product from Google.

In April this year, they released a privacy-oriented desktop web-browser that blocks trackers and advertisements.

Privacy Controversies

Given the fact that DuckDuckGo syndicates its search results from Microsoft, it is beholden to Microsoft. We should have anticipated a conflict of interest problem right from the beginning.

So, these two controversies should not have been a surprise:

Microsoft ads in search results

As explained by them, when you do a search in DuckDuckGo, this is what happens:

If you click on a Microsoft-provided ad, you will be redirected to the advertiser’s landing page through Microsoft Advertising’s platform. At that point, Microsoft Advertising will use your full IP address and user-agent string so that it can properly process the ad click and charge the advertiser.
So, when you click on a Microsoft-provided ad in DuckDuckGo’s search result, Microsoft will be collecting information (your IP address, user-agent string, and possibly more??) about you before redirecting you to the advertiser’s website. DuckDuckGo cannot control what information Microsoft collects about you and they have washed their hands over this matter. So, they refer you to Microsoft’s Privacy Policy, and you have to trust Microsoft to adhere to their own privacy policy.

Microsoft’s trackers exempted

Now, this is starting to get more controversial. DuckDuckGo’s web-browser is branded as a privacy-oriented product that blocks trackers and advertisements.

It turned out that they lied.

Although their web-browser blocks Google and Facebook’s trackers, a security research performed an audit and discovered it allowed Microsoft’s trackers to do its job unimpeded! As this article from Bleeping Computer reported,

Further tests showed that DuckDuckGo allowed trackers related to the and domains while blocking all other trackers.
After being caught, DuckDuckGo’s CEO and founder, Gabriel Weinberg, confessed that it is true in this tweet:
For non-search tracker blocking (eg in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. Unfortunately our Microsoft search syndication agreement prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties.

Political controversy: fighting misinformation

The next controversy is a political one. In March this year, Gabriel Weinberg announced that:
At DuckDuckGo, we've been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.
In other words, as this Washington Post (a left-leaning publication) article said, they have chosen to take a political side.

Again, this should not have been a surprise. Pundits like Rob Braxman already knew that DuckDuckGo was a left-leaning as a company.

What about Brave?

Brave has its own independent search engine. What I mean by “independent” is that unlike other minor search engines (e.g. DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!), they do not syndicate their search results from another search engine. As they explained,
Brave Search uses its own, built-from-scratch index. Prior to Brave Search, producing quality results could be achieved only by big tech companies, which took many years and tens of billions of dollars to continually crawl the entire web.
So far, Brave has not announced that they are taking any political sides.


Brave’s search engine is still extremely new (released in 2021). Google has more than 20 years of experience honing and developing their search engine. So, you can say they are a new kid on the block.

Is Brave clean?

Brave may not be completely clean either. As this article reported,
The issue came to widespread attention yesterday, when Twitter user @Cryptonator1337 pointed out that Brave Browser auto-filled a referral code to the end of the web address when "" is typed into the address bar. Binance is a cryptocurrency trading website, and with that referral code, Brave Software could earn 20% from trading fees for every account created using the link.

As it turns out, Binance isn’t the only website Brave is injecting its own referral links into. The browser’s GitHub repository reveals the functionality was first added on March 25th, and the current list of sites includes Binance, Coinbase, Ledger, and Trezor. Brave Software receives a kickback for purchases/accounts made with those services — for example, Coinbase says that when you refer a new customer to the service, you can earn 50% of their fees for the first three months.

After they were caught, the backlash forced Brave to change. So, in terms of ethics, I have reservations about Brave.

What about Yandex and Prescient?

I don’t have much experience with either of them, so I cannot say much. I know Yandex is based in Russia, and not without its own controversy. Therefore, you can expect it to have a Russian bias. Here's an interview with the Yandex leaders.

How do you protect yourself from tracking?

You cannot fully rely on the promises of search engines not to track you.

Even Brave.

For commercial organisations to provide you with a free search service, they need to find a way to pay their own bills. Someone has to pay something eventually. If not the users or donors, then it will be advertisers. Eventually, a sustainable business model has to eventuate, otherwise the free service will end eventually.

However, that doesn’t mean you should stop using DuckDuckGo. If you use it, do so with your eyes wide open. Specifically, do not click on advertisements in their search results or use their desktop web browser.

To protect yourself from tracking, you have to take matters to your own hands. You need a portfolio of solutions and multiple layers of defence. In my book, Easy Guide to Cybersecurity & Privacy, there are a lot of information on how you can do that.

What about "free speech" search engines?

I bet in the near future, you will hear of more "free speech" search engines coming to the market. But you need to remember this: there will certainly be drawbacks with "free-speech" search engines, especially the newer ones.

Personal responsibility

"Free speech" search engines are where you will find the contrarians and dissenting thinkers. But it is also where shysters, hucksters, con-mans, liars, propagandists and corrupt people lurk too. These people will find their way to whoever will let them in. Unfortunately, "free speech" search engines are especially vulnerable to these types of people.

My feeling is that the true gems like the contrarians and dissenting thinkers will be the tiny minority, whereas the dross will be the vast majority. Therefore, when it comes to sorting out misinformation from the good quality information, you are on your own. It will be your personal responsibility. If you are not careful or conscientious enough, you can fall into your own filter bubble or sucked into conspiracy theories and misinformation.

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they usually take a tiny kernel of truth (from the contrarians and dissenting thinkers) )and exaggerate, distort and mangle it until it becomes completely nonsense. And then a number of these complete nonsense are combined together and built on top of one another to create a big fantastical rubbish.

So, if you choose to use a “free speech” search engine, you will have to expend a lot more hard work to seek out the gems from the huge expanse of excrement. That is why the Bible says,

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Matthew 7:13-14
You will want to be the few who find it.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Internet Aware Washing Machine?

Thoroughly appreciate your clear view of the search engine landscape and will be in contact soon for your professional guidance.

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My way of sorting through the rubbish to find the truth is simple – evidence. It’s what the scientific method is based on. And why what they are passing off today as “science” is anything but. If I don’t see clear irrefutable evidence for any claim, I don’t believe it. I don’t necessary reject it either. It just might sit in a place of rumination for a while until I can further investigate and relate it to other information and how it fits into the big picture.



you can fall into your own filter bubble or sucked into conspiracy theories and misinformation
Most of the misinformation is government generated. Stay away from MSM and government sites, you're halfway there.

You Are The Product

It will never work for any search engine that is “free”. They make money by productizing their users.
We need a fee-for-service search engine, like ProtonMail does for email.


Maybe ProtonMail can expand their offerings to include a search engine? They already expanded to VPN, Calendar and cloud storage.


The Droid You Are Searching For Already Exists?

There is already a pay-to-play model available. I think it is called LexisNexis? It’s pretty expensive if I recall.

From my quick look at LexisNexis, it is a specialised research/monitoring tool for law firms, corporations, government agencies and academic institutions. It is not exactly a search engine for general use.



For those with a little experience in network/router configuration and setup, I’d recommend checking out Pi-hole ( It can block a lot of tracking and advertising site at the network level, and is great for wholescale blocking of any site you don’t want your kids on - facebook, instagram, etc.


Virtue Signalling Doesn’t Pay …

I did use them for many years but I stopped using them the moment their CEO virtue-signalled about messing with their search results algorithm to downrank/hide Russian sites … to ‘protect thier users from misinformation’.
Not only were they pulling that crap, the head honcho was boasting about doing it on Twitter. NOT a service I want to continue using.


Peak Covid, what search engine are you using? I didn’t like the virtue signaling either when he came out on Russia but I still don’t see any better options. I never click on ads. This was an excellent article and I loved it! Thanks Terrance Kam (I’ll be buying your book) and Peak P!!


Interview On Privacy With Proton’s Ceo

Yes, it is specialized for this type of research,much like paid services to access medical or legal or academic publications.

Swiss Cows Is A Private Search Engine Based In Switzerland

I have used the web based version and appear to get comprehensive results. The mobile version is awful in terms of the capabilities of the interface for creating tabs, sharing links with one click, etc. These features do not appear to exist.
However, like Duck Duck Go, they cooperate with Bing, so don’t click on ads. You do not create a user profile to use their service.



I’ve been using Searx / SearXNG for a couple of years now:
SearXNG is a free internet metasearch engine which aggregates results from more than 70 search services. Users are neither tracked nor profiled.” - from
The above page allows you to choose an instance of Searx to use. (I have been using for a while).
It is open source and “hackable” - meaning if you are tech savvy you can create your own instance. Perhaps we could ask Dr Chris and colleagues to look into the feasibility of creating a Peak Prosperity Searx instance…?
(This is my first post, I’m not ‘shilling’ for Searx; this just happens to be the first time I wanted to reach out to you all. I’ve been following Peak Prosperity since the very beginning of the SARS-NCOV-2 (yeah, remember when it was called that?) pandemic and my favorite bits were the WHO bus and the cat on the curtain rail!

Startpage for the most part- it’s an anonymised front end to Google. Thus, they also have ‘shaped’ search results courtesy of the back end but at least you get the power of the Google search. Also is worth a go, currently in beta but shows promise and worth supporting.

Hmm. I know people who do research for Universities near me and they use this tool. Maybe it’s just marketed as a “law specified tool”? These people are not lawyers, nor are they associated with lawyers.
Maybe I misunderstood.

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Stuck With The Duck

I would love to use something else, but what? As has been mentioned, Brave has issues too and actually looks suspiciously similar to the results you get in Goolag - ahm I mean Google. So as long as there is no better alternative, what else can I do but continue to use the duck?

What I Do

Qubes OS + the builtin tor (sys-whonix) + dedicated disposable vm that routes over tor. No previous cookies, new ip address not associated with me each boot. Then it’s mostly and for searching. That’s about as much effort as I’m willing to put into it for the moment.

Startpage From The Nl Is Now A Public Company

I’ve been using Startpage as my search engine since reading this article and I’ve been a Brave user for several years. It’s a good combination.
The company is now a public company but their privacy policies have not changed. This article from them is quite reassuring.