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China has blocked the private browser DuckDuckGo, the well-known privacy-conscious search engine. A couple of US services are still available in the country, but they are heavily monitored and censored. DuckDuckGo is still accessible via VPN, but unconnected Chinese users have to settle for filtered results.
Popular Private Browser Search Service DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo allows users to search the Google database from its private browser without being tracked by the Internet giant. DuckDuckGo has become popular because it provides the best search results and privacy at the same time. But despite the assurance of not being subjected to probing from the likes of Google, the Chinese government decided that this private browser is not fit for Chinese users. Google is also currently blocked in China. All these services can still be used from China with a VPN, however.
The sudden and huge popularity of DuckDuckGo is due to the user privacy that it guarantees. When the world found out about NSA spying and the participation of Google, Yahoo and other services, people flocked to use the private browser for Internet searches. More people were added as news spread of tracking and monitoring by big Internet companies like these. Immediately after the first Snowden documents were reported in the news, DuckDuckGo was getting 3 million queries every day as compared to its previous 1.5 million. This in not close to what Google gets, but it was enough to show a marked interest in keeping searches private even a year after the initial reports.
DuckDuckGo has always put privacy first, ensuring users that no personal data is kept by the company through the private browser. This is a striking contrast to other Internet giants who regularly and actively track users and use their data for gain. Later, the inclusion of the private browser and search capabilities of DuckDuckGo in plans for Apple’s iOS 8 again boosted the search engine’s popularity. Other companies also recommended DuckDuckGo as a private browser and search engine.
DuckDuckGo No Longer Available in China
The DuckDuckGo private browser is now blocked all over China. This includes the areas of Beijing, Heilongjiang Province, Inner Mongolia, Shenzhen, and Yunnan Province. Internet users in China can still use local services like Baidu and Qihoo to search for content. Of course, these search engines are heavily regulated by the Chinese government under the media laws in China.
The US services that are available to Chinese users are Yahoo and Bing, possibly allowed because they have servers in China. This means that all the traffic that is flowing through from the two search providers can be monitored. The search engines are also under heavy censorship since they have to conform to the same laws. Users therefore cannot get complete results when they type in their queries, unless they use a VPN to access a private browser.
The ban on DuckDuckGo began a few weeks ago, around September 4th. The Chinese government has not yet confirmed why they banned the search engine. Some say that DuckDuckGo was banned in China because of its privacy focus. The government is keen on closely monitoring all the Internet activities of the people. They must have felt that DuckDuckGo prevented them from learning about users’ searches. DuckDuckGo is meant to protect the privacy and personal data of its users. Apparently this is not as important to the government than knowing everything that Chinese people are doing online. One big possibility is that DuckDuckGo did not comply with China’s filtering regulations. DuckDuckGo is more concerned with user privacy, so the government would have a big bone to pick over this. The search engine has also not cooperated well with the government on problems they encountered because of China’s Great Firewall.