I have had DuckDuckGo (DDG) as my default search engine since probably around 2012. I was curious, and a little nervous at first, but now it seems like it was a good choice. Now, of course, this is assuming that what goes on behind the curtain at DDG, is entirely consistent with what is being projected to the people who use it. A search engine that respects/protects your privacy seems too good to be true – yet, DDG seems to have stuck to its original principles.
Teaching on issues relating to privacy, security, and life in the digital space has sensitized me to their critical importance for an increasingly online world, today, and moving forward. As part of the courses we (Scott and I) teach, we cover news highlights every week, and we have done so for many years. The intersection of technology, security, privacy, social dynamics, etc. is a space we have been watching for a long time. In the past couple of years, it is very clear that slowly but surely, the surveillance marketing economy is being challenged. It is clear that “cool” big techs, doing “great things” for the world are being challenged by the need to prioritize profits based on their current business models over legitimate (or superficial) aspirations to do good for society.
Yet, with all the coverage of bad or questionable behaviors by big platform operators, it seems the general public is still not migrating en masse off of these platforms. Much of this is possibly because people don’t care about these issues – after all, these issues are more “boiling frog” types of issues (see SocialCooling for a simple introduction to some of these issues, or at least their impact). But another explanation may be that there doesn’t seem to be a viable alternative in the market.
So it seems as though now would be a good time for someone to step in and create a social network for the rest of us. A social network platform that not only respects people’s privacy, but also one that addresses other major flaws of existing social network platforms. DDG the little search engine that could (actually, not so little anymore…), is one of those companies that seems to have the legitimacy to stand proudly on its early achievements, and do something about this. If DDG hasn’t explored the idea (and I’d be surprised if they have not), now may be a good time to do so. And while going from search engine to content platform is a big scary step, I trust the people at DDG would probably do a decent job of it.