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DuckDuckGo started a decade ago as a privacy-friendly search engine alternative to Google that doesn't collect your personal information. Now, facing the data-collection dominance of Facebook and Google, it's seeing anonymous searching spike and is expanding beyond the search box.

Expand chart
Reproduced from DuckDuckGo; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: Google and Facebook track individuals' online behavior to tailor advertising based on those preferences. With data breaches on the rise, along with concerns over election manipulation through targeted ads, DuckDuckGo is pitching itself as an "internet privacy company" by launching encrypted private browsing that blocks trackers.

By the numbers:

  • In 2017, DuckDuckGo saw nearly 6 billion private searches, a 50% increase over 2016.
  • The search engine saw daily private searches increase 55% over the course of 2017, to 19 million daily searches by the end of the year.
  • Those numbers pale in comparison to Google's 3.5 billion daily searches.

Growing interest: DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg said he first saw an increase in traffic after Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents in 2013. He saw a larger shift in the public's attitude toward online privacy after the 2016 election, when people started to realize the "more pernicious effects of the filter bubble" driven by personal data profiles.

  • "There's starting to be a critical mass of people educated enough about how trackers and this ecosystem works to want to do something about it," Weinberg told Axios.

How it works: DuckDuckGo is releasing today browser extensions and mobile app for the major platforms — Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS and Android. It will also give a "privacy grade" for every site you visit, including how many trackers were working behind the scenes.

  • The new tools block the trackers on websites, not the ads themselves.
  • "The media industry is beholden to Google and Facebook," as sites feel like they have to do more tracking to keep up, Weinberg said. "We're hoping to break up that duopoly up and make some incentives for not having to continually do more and more micro-targeting."

Our thought bubble: Big Tech's troubles provide an opening for smaller firms that want to offer an alternative to how the tech giants do business.

Go deeper

Pipeline hack spotlights cyber risks to energy systems

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline — the massive East Coast gasoline artery — is a stunning real-world example of the increasing risks that the energy sector faces from a cyberattack.

Why it matters: Different parts of the vast American energy system are vulnerable — from pipelines to power grids to individual power plants and plenty in between.

57 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: TikTok launching jobs service for Gen Z

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok is testing a tool for brands to recruit employees, sources tell Axios.

Details: The pilot program is designed to help people find jobs on TikTok and connect with companies looking to find candidates. It's also meant to help brands use TikTok as a recruitment channel.

Crypto media boom

Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Axios Visuals

A slew of new crypto media companies have gained enormous traction over the past year, thanks to the digital currency craze taking over Wall Street.

Why it matters: “For the first time ever, crypto has become relevant to the global macro-economic conversation, and therefore, the investment conversation," says Jason Yanowitz, co-founder of Blockworks, a financial media brand catered to investors.