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Is DuckDuckGo a VPN? Do You Need It For Privacy?

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In a world where online privacy has become such a big issue, everyone is looking for ways to protect their privacy. While many people have jumped into VPNs, some have gone for alternative solutions such as Tor and DuckDuckGo. They all, after all, promote online privacy and anonymity. 

Now, while some people might have a clue on how to differentiate such privacy tools, some struggle with it. Here we differentiate DuckDuckGo from a VPN. 

Is DuckDuckGo a VPN?

It is easy to confuse DuckDuckGo with a VPN since they both protect anonymity and privacy. However, they are not the same. DuckDuckGo is a search engine, while a VPN is a private network that creates a secure connection to the internet. 

One of the many reasons why people confuse DuckDuckGo with a VPN is because of DuckDuckGo’s app and browser extension, which have privacy features almost similar to VPN’s. They include;

  • Smarter encryption: This feature forces sites to use encrypted connections where available, protecting your data from prying eyes.
  • Escape advert tracking: There is an automatic ad blocker that stops hidden third-party trackers on sites you visit from tracking, collecting, and selling your data.
  • Search privately: The browser extension and app do not track your search history, enhancing your privacy. 
  • Privacy at a glance: There is a privacy grade feature that shows you how much a site is protected, helping you stay away from unsecure sites.

As similar as the security and privacy features of DuckDuckGo and VPNs might seem, they are not one and the same.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is an internet search engine that promotes online privacy by not tracking users’ activities online. According to the provider, no cookies are used to track users, and no personal information is collected. Furthermore, the search engine hides your IP address and location from advertisers.

Does DuckDuckGo hide your IP address?

Popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Bing, and Firefox are popular for a good reason. One among which is they are easy to use. However, they are quite notorious for tracking everything you do online.  

When browsing the internet through Google or Bing, even in private mode, the keywords you insert are forwarded to the site you are visiting in the HTTP reader. When you visit the site, your device automatically shares your information, including your IP address. This is information that can be used to identify you. DuckDuckGo calls this search leakage. 

DuckDuckGo prevents search leakage by default on its search results.  The search engine masks your keywords such that other sites cannot see them. The sites you visit will have no idea the search words you used to access their content. Site owners will have no way of using your personal information to identify you. Your IP address is completely hidden from them. 

Do I need a VPN with DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is an effective tool for online privacy. However, there is only so much it can do on its own. Here are some of the reasons you need a VPN with DuckDuckGo.

  • Complete privacy: when using DuckDuckGo, the search engine only protects you while on it. This means if you decide to browse with another search engine, your privacy is no longer guaranteed. With a VPN, you are guaranteed complete privacy as everything you do online is encrypted. 
  • Bypass geo-blocking and censorship: countries like China and India have blocked DuckDuckGo. This means citizens of such countries have no access to the search engine. A VPN helps you bypass geo-blocking and censorship by masking your IP address. 

How is DuckDuckGo different from a VPN?

The major difference between DuckDuckGo and VPN is in how they protect your privacy. While a VPN provides a wholesome style of online privacy, protecting your entire device, DuckDuckGo provides online privacy only while using it. The search engine does not protect your entire device. 

Some of the ways DuckDuckGo protects your privacy include;

  • Not storing search history: the search engine does not store users’ information. This means no one can access users’ past searches from its servers. 
  • No third-party trackers: the search engine protects users’ privacy by blocking ad trackers. You don’t have to worry about customized pop-up ad bombardment.
  • Encrypted search data: DuckDuckGo will automatically lead you to encrypted sites if any are available.  This way, your personal information stays safe. 

DuckDuckGo and VPN both have their pros and cons. Alone, these online privacy tools are good. However, combined, they are better. For example, most VPNs have a problem blocking website trackers like cookies, which is no problem for DuckDuckGo. 

Is DuckDuckGo legal?

Countries like China and India have blocked the use of DuckDuckGo. This means citizens of such countries have no way of enjoying the benefits of the search engine. If you are touring or visiting such countries, you’ll also have no way of accessing the private search engine.

To counter the censorship problem, VPNs come in handy. With a VPN, you can easily bypass the censorship of DuckDuckGo in countries like China and India. 

A VPN masks your IP address, making it appear like you are browsing from localities that accept the use of DuckDuckGo. 

Best VPNs to use with DuckDuckGo

Not all VPNs can be used effectively with DuckDuckGo for online privacy. Free VPNs, for example, are notorious for logging and selling users’ data. Many of them are also known for weak security features, making them vulnerable to countless online attacks. 

Some of the best VPNs to use with DuckDuckGo include;

NordVPN

NordVPN has military-grade encryption, which, together with DuckDuckGo’s features, can ensure your data is always protected. It has a no-log policy and RAM-disk servers that enhance your online privacy.

NordVPN has CyberSec, a security and privacy feature that protects you from suspicious sites, phishing scams, and blocks annoying ads. The feature can be enabled on the VPN setting.

The service fully protects all traffic that comes from all your apps, not just the browser. It allows you to connect up to 6 devices at the same time.

NordVPN is also great for unblocking streaming and supporting P2P traffic. It also has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

NordVPN logo
  • 5200+ global servers in 59+ countries
  • CyberSec malware and ad-blocking protection
  • Next-generation encryption with double VPN servers
  • Obfuscation technology that masks VPN traffic
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Works with Netflix and good for streaming
  • Lightning fast with P2P support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Surfshark

    Surfshark has more than 3200+ servers in 65 countries that run on RAM disks. It keeps no logs and is based in the British Virgin Islands.

    The apps have features like CleanWeb that blocks ads, Camouflage that masks VPN traffic and Split Tunneling. It also includes an automatic kill switch and DNS and IP leak protection. Combined with DuckDuckGo, you have a powerful security system for online privacy.

    It fully supports P2P and can unblock a lot of streaming services around the world. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

    Surfshark VPN logo horizontal
  • 3200+ global servers in 60+ countries
  • CleanWeb ad-blocking feature
  • Secure and strong encryption with OpenVPN
  • Whitelister, Multi-hop VPN and kill switch
  • No-logs policy
  • Works with Netflix and good for streaming
  • Great speeds
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • ExpressVPN

    ExpressVPN is another privacy-focused VPN that, when combined with DuckDuckGo, can guarantee the best of online privacy and security. ExpressVPN has strong encryption, runs on RAM-disk servers, and has a no-log policy. The VPN does not store any of its user’s information and was audited by an independent audit.

    ExpressVPN is armed with DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch in case there is a drop in the VPN connection. This is especially useful if you’re torrenting or hiding your real location from streaming websites.

    ExpressVPN supports all platforms and allows up to 5 devices to be connected at once. It may be a bit more expensive than Nord, but also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

    ExpressVPN Logo Horizontal
  • 160+ locations and 3000+ servers
  • Strict No-Log policy
  • Unlimited streaming (Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer)
  • Strong military-grade AES 256-bit key encryption
  • Kill Switch, Split tunneling and RAM-disk servers
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux support
  • Fast speeds and reliable connections
  • Alternatives to DuckDuckGo

    DuckDuckGo is not the only search engine that protects online privacy. Others include;

    StartPage

    StartPage is one of the best alternatives to DuckDuckGo. This Netherland-based private search engine has several ways in which it protects its users’ privacy.

    • It never stores users’ information. 
    • It never shares users’ information with third parties.
    • It has a useful proxy that hides users’ IP addresses and locations.
    • It has a URL generator that eliminates the need for cookies.

    StartPage incorporates Google results and is available as a Chrome and Firefox extension.

    Qwant

    Qwant is another great alternative to DuckDuckGo. This France-based private search engine is user-friendly, and like most of its competitors, does not track users’ searches or store any of their private information. It guarantees online privacy.

    The search engine has a number of filter options that enable users to find the best results more quickly. It has a similar feature to DuckDuckGo’s !Bang , Qwick search, which makes browsing easier and faster. 

    Search Encrypt

    Search Encrypt is a fast and reliable private search engine giving DuckDuckGo a run for its money. This search engine keeps users’ searches private using local encryption with Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFC).

    The search engine encrypts your search terms locally before transmitting them to their secure servers. Once you are done with your search, the encryption key for the term disappears.

    On the plus side, Search Encrypt has a browser feature that prevents your browser from saving your search history. It also doesn’t use any tracking software.

    Conclusion

    DuckDuckGo is an impressive private search engine with great advantages once included in your browsing sessions. It can guarantee the much-needed privacy to keep you away from snooping ISPs and government surveillance. However, where it falls short is where VPNs come in. Together with a good VPN, DuckDuckGo does provide exemplary online privacy. So, yes, you need it for online privacy.


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