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Google Brand Purpose Future of Media

Privacy-centric search engines DuckDuckGo and Brave are spiking, per new study


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

April 27, 2022 | 5 min read

A new poll reveals that web users, though still largely reliant on Google for search, are growing increasingly concerned about data privacy – and are experimenting with challenger search engines including DuckDuckGo and Brave, which promise built-in privacy protections.

DuckDuckGo browser open on man's laptop

DuckDuckGo is soaring, per exclusive YouGov data / Adobe Stock

Exclusive data from a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of The Drum reveals that a large majority of consumers worry about their personal information being shared by search engines such as Google and Bing without their consent. They also believe that search engines have a great deal of responsibility in protecting users’ personal data.

Here are the top takeaways from the survey, which was conducted among more than 1,000 US internet users:

1. Consumers care about search engines collecting and sharing their data

In the poll, 91% of all respondents said that it is either very important or somewhat important to them that, when using a search engine, their personal information only be shared with other parties with their express consent.

Only 7% of respondents said it was not very important or not important at all.

2. Consumers believe that search engines have a responsibility to protect their data

Results reveal that 65% of respondents believe search engines should bear a great deal of responsibility for protecting individual users’ personal information. An additional 21% believe they should have a fair amount of responsibility.

11% said that search engines should have none or not much responsibility for protecting user data.

3. Users still opt for Google over privacy-centric search engines

Despite their interest in personal data protection, most users still rely on the big kid on the block: Google. 78% of respondents said they most frequently search on Google; 6% said they use Bing and 4% prefer Yahoo.

Though Google has made headway – and headlines – in the last few years on its increasingly stringent privacy stance (most notably in the deprecation of third-party cookies on Chrome and the company’s various Privacy Sandbox endeavors), it has been slapped with lawsuit after lawsuit alleging that it is better on paper than in practice when it comes to user data privacy.

4. DuckDuckGo gets an uptick

There is a small but growing minority of users who, wary of Google’s spotty privacy past, are looking elsewhere. A notable 7% of respondents in The Drum’s YouGov poll most commonly use DuckDuckGo, which has built an infrastructure and a brand around the promise that it protects users’ privacy. DuckDuckGo does not track users or allow third-party tracking of users around the web, and therefore does not produce filtered search results based on individual users’ patterns of online behavior.

Though it remains a challenger in the space, 34% of those polled said they have used DuckDuckGo in the past and another 30% claim to have heard of it but haven’t tried it out. Per the company’s own reports, DuckDuckGo daily queries were up 27% year-to-date.

5. Users finding courage using Brave

Brave, a newer privacy-centric browser that launched in 2019, is gaining steam too. 11% of surveyed consumers said they’ve used Brave before, and 9% said they’ve heard of it but not yet tried it – although less than a full percent selected it as their search engine of choice.

Brave is eager to distinguish itself as a strong contender for users who care about protecting their personal information from Google and Google’s countless advertising partners. “When users are on the web, they should be in charge of their data and experience, not Google,” says Peter Snyder, the company’s senior director of privacy. “Brave is a user-first platform. It’s time to claw back control from Google; this starts with privacy by default and by re-establishing a direct link between users and their favorite content.”

Based on data from this survey, it appears that web traffic on DuckDuckGo and Brave is likely to see continued growth through 2022.

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