My internet searches are pretty uninteresting by just about any standard. So, in a sense, I shouldn’t care that search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing track my search queries. Similarly, many of the letters that I send are pretty innocuous, so I shouldn’t care if the envelope doesn’t get sealed before it goes out. (I’m not talking about client or client-related correspondence in this instance. I’m talking about cover letters that accompany court filings or personal correspondence.)
But I do care if the envelope doesn’t get sealed. It’s the principle of the thing. I prefer privacy in various contexts: in the home, in public restrooms, in the car, in my luggage, etc.
The leading search engines have done a pretty good job of keeping us from considering the fact that our search queries are tracked and tied to us. The only ones who really talk about it are the privacy-obsessed. Those of us who are slightly less than privacy-obsessed read what the privacy-obsessed are saying, think about it, and then get distracted by a ringing phone or an email that has just arrived.
But the principle of the private search makes sense to me. I’d be bothered if I had to write down in a log at the public library my name and what my search query is before using the library’s card catalog (which is now, of course, online). I don’t care if someone finds out I’m looking for books on astronomy or architecture. But it’s the principle: what people are looking for in a public library is nobody’s business.
After this year’s ABA TechShow, I heard about a new search engine, DuckDuckGo. It does not track your search history, and it does a remarkable job of finding useful information. Not only does DuckDuckGo have its own web crawler and search algorithm, but it queries Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Wikipedia as well. Those results turn up in my search results as well.
I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for a day now, and I’m sold. I’ve installed the Safari extension that makes it my default search engine, and I’m loving it. Sure, the fact that I just searched for information on “Duck Duck Goose” is not embarrassing, but neither is it anyone’s business—not even Google’s.