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

DuckDuckGo vs. VPN

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

Now, while some people might have a clue on how to differentiate such privacy tools, some struggle with it. This DuckDuckGo vs. VPN page covers the similarities and differences between the two, as well as the extent of DuckDuckGo’s ability to protect your online privacy.

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 that are very similar to a VPN’s. They include:

  • Smart 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 insecure 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.

DuckDuckGo Pros and Cons

Knowing what DuckDuckGo is and how it works also enables us to understand the key advantages that this privacy-friendly browser brings to the table. From this perspective, let’s take a look at the biggest pros of using DuckDuckGo:

  • Zero Tracking – year after year, we’re constantly seeing big tech companies pushing for more of our private data. With DuckDuckGo, you don’t have to worry about how much data it tracks, as the answer is simple. It has zero tracking.
  • No Profiling – when you use popular search engines and browsers, you’re slowly creating an image of yourself that advertisers can use to target you. This isn’t an issue with DuckDuckGo, as every user from any corner of the world will always get the same search results.
  • Great Transparency – besides protecting your privacy, DuckDuckGo also puts a lot of attention into ensuring its own privacy policy is transparent. It lists everything clearly and without any vagueness, which instills confidence that it truly cares about keeping your valuable data away from prying eyes.
  • Easy to Use – in addition to its privacy and safety features, DuckDuckGo is generally a very simple and easy-to-use search engine. 

Of course, it’s also important to consider the other side of the coin and understand the downsides of using DuckDuckGo. With that in mind, here are a few cons of using DuckDuckGo:

  • Not Much Room For Personalization – as your information isn’t being actively tracked, you won’t get nearly the same level of personalization as you can experience with a service like Google. 
  • Not Very Convenient – in line with the previous disadvantage, DuckDuckGo simply isn’t as convenient as other mainstream search engines. This is the functionality disadvantage that inherently comes with the privacy advantage.
  • Ads, Ads, Ads – there are several problems on this front that you’ll encounter while using DuckDuckGo. For starters, you’ll get repeated and irrelevant ads. While this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal at first bat, these ads can get annoying quickly.
  • Based in the US – lastly, it’s important to remember that DuckDuckGo is based in the US. This means that it will have to hand over any relevant data if government agencies come knocking on its headquarters doors.

What Are the Differences Between DuckDuck Go and Other Search Engines?

There’s no point in discussing DuckDuckGo without drawing parallels between it and other popular search engines. In this regard, let’s compare DuckDuckGo and other mainstream search engines to see what their main differences are:

DuckDuckGo vs. Google

Naturally, the biggest debate in this context is the one between DuckDuckGo and Google. Moreover, the differences between these two search engines are pretty ostensible. There’s no middle ground, as everything depends on whether you prioritize privacy or convenience.

In this sense, the main difference is that with DuckDuckGo you get enhanced privacy, while with Google, you get better personalization and connectedness across various Google services. 

Additionally, Google offers abysmal privacy levels and records your search history, but this also allows it to provide more complete search results. On the other hand, DuckDuckGo is clean and without any search result logs, meaning you don’t have to worry about creating a filter bubble.

DuckDuckGo vs. Tor

The differentiation between DuckDuckGo and Tor is much more nuanced than that between DuckDuckGo and Google. This is because Tor is a privacy-friendly browser that aims to strengthen your online privacy. From this perspective, DuckDuckGo and Tor are very similar. What’s more, DuckDuckGo is the default search engine in the Tor browser.

That said, looking at the differences between the two, there is one massive dissimilarity. DuckDuckGo is just a search engine and has all of the pros and cons that mark such a tool. In comparison, Tor (short for The Onion Router) is a comprehensive network and browser. 

This directly ties into the second big difference. Tor encrypts your traffic and hides your real IP address when using it. In comparison, DuckDuckGo doesn’t hide your IP. It just doesn’t collect your browsing data.

Does DuckDuckGo Hide Your IP Address?

Popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Bing, and Firefox are popular for a good reason. Among the main ones is that 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. 

So, does DuckDuckGo hide your IP, and how does it fare in this regard? In simple terms, yes, 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 – DuckDuckGo is blocked in some countries. 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 a VPN service is in how they protect your privacy. While a VPN delivers all-encompassing 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 – DuckDuckGo does not store users’ information. This means no one can access users’ past searches from its servers. 
  • No Third-party Trackers – this search engine protects users’ privacy by blocking ad trackers. That way, 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. 

The key takeaway from the points above is that there are crucial reasons for having a DuckDuckGo VPN combination. 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?

DuckDuckGo is perfectly legal in most countries. But, in some countries, most notably China, DuckDuckGo is illegal. This means citizens of such countries have no way of enjoying the benefits of the search engine. If you are touring a country where this browser is illegal, you’ll have no way of accessing it.
Luckily, VPNs come in handy for countering this censorship problem. With a VPN, you can easily bypass the censorship of DuckDuckGo from heavily authoritarian countries. 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:

1. 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. It also supports advanced features like Onion Over VPN, double protection, and split tunneling.

NordVPN comes with a Threat Protection tool, 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. It has over 5,300 servers, nearly all of which support NordVPN’s Wireguard-based NordLynx protocol.

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 supports P2P traffic. It also has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

Pros:
  • Thousands of lightning-fast servers
  • Unblocks streaming services
  • Fully supports Torrenting and P2P
  • Strict no-logs policy and RAM-disk servers
  • Ad blocker and malware protection features
  • Robust security features and military-grade encryption
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Only 6 simultaneous connections
  • No free trial

2. AtlasVPN

Atlas VPN can be used alongside DuckDuckGo since ensuring users’ online privacy is the main focus of this provider. A powerful setup of WireGuard or IKEv2/IPSec paired with AES-256 warrants and military-grade encryption makes this VPN very powerful when we are talking about providing top-notch anonymity online.

Since you can use Atlas on all major software platforms without any limitations and connect an unlimited number of devices, you can enjoy the combination of this VPN and DuckDuckGo with ease. 

Besides, Atlas VPN supports P2P  and has advanced leak protection and a kill switch. It also blocks malware and ads. In short, you can count on everything that you need to make your online presence even safer. 

And with its budget-friendly subscription prices, you won’t need to worry about overpaying. To add to this, Atlas VPN also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee. In other words, it’s an entirely risk-free option to try.

Pros:
  • Very affordable plans and it has a free version
  • Fast Speeds
  • Unlimited device support
  • WireGuard protocol and strong security features
  • Torrenting-friendly
  • Unblocks streaming services
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Limited Linux app
  • Based in the US
  • Not so many servers

3. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is an excellent VPN to use alongside DuckDuckGo, as it perfectly adds to the browser’s features. With a strong focus on privacy, this VPN service guarantees you maximum online protection. 

PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any data logs on your connections so that you can browse the Internet, torrent, and stream in utmost privacy. It’s also armed with valuable DNS leak protection and IPv6 leak protection. Even though it maintains an impressive 99.98% uptime, PrivateVPN provides an automatic kill switch in case of any connection drops.

The service supports all major OS platforms and offers best-in-class security. You can secure up to ten devices simultaneously, so you can enjoy the combined privacy benefits of a VPN and DuckDuckGo on any device you use.

Apart from its strong privacy and security characteristics, PrivateVPN also delivers unlimited bandwidth and server switches. This provides convenient use that meets all of your online needs.

Pros:
  • Supports P2P traffic and allows port forwarding
  • Unlimited bandwidth and great speeds
  • Unblocks most streaming platforms
  • Zero-logging policy
  • Free Static IP servers
  • 10 simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Cons:
  • Not as many servers as other VPN providers
  • No split-tunneling

Alternatives to DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is not the only search engine that protects online privacy, as there are a handful of other trustworthy picks you can explore. Here are some of the best alternatives to DuckDuckGo:

StartPage

StartPage is arguably the best alternative 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 (PFS).

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.

Another great aspect of Search Encrypt is that it has a browser feature that prevents your browser from saving your search history. It also doesn’t use any tracking software.

DuckDuckGo VPN FAQs

Does DuckDuckGo Really Work?

Yes, DuckDuckGo does truly work and is capable of ensuring anonymous browsing. DuckDuckGo is private and offers much better data protection than other mainstream browsers and search engines.

Does DuckDuckGo Automatically Delete History?

With DuckDuckGo, you won’t find the same kind of detailed browsing history that you can on other browsers. That said, you have to select whether you want to automatically clear the tabs or all data on every restart. If you set the auto clear data, every time you enter DuckDuckGo, it’ll be like you never used it before.

Can I Use DuckDuckGo For Free?

For those wondering if DuckDuckGo is free, the great news is that this search engine comes free of any cost! You can use the private search engine, Chrome extension, and even the iOS and Android apps without paying a penny.

With this in mind, while DuckDuckGo doesn’t charge any purchase or subscription costs, it doesn’t mean that it’s a non-profit business. Namely, DuckDuckGo primarily earns revenue through advertisements and affiliate programs.

Does DuckDuckGo Have a VPN?

No, DuckDuckGo doesn’t possess VPN properties, nor is it a VPN in itself. Although DuckDuckGo shares some similarities with VPN services, you can’t obtain all of the VPN benefits just by using it.

Conclusion

DuckDuckGo is an impressive private search engine with great advantages once included in your browsing sessions. It can guarantee 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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