Jun 10 2024

Duckduckgo Launches Anonymous AI Chatbots

Category: Anonymousdisc7 @ 7:10 am

DuckDuckGo has unveiled a new feature, AI Chat, which offers users an anonymous way to access popular AI chatbots.

This innovative service includes models like OpenAI’s GPT 3.5 Turbo, Anthropic’s Claude 3 Haiku, and two open-source models, Meta Llama 3 and Mistral’s Mixtral 8x7B.

A New Era Of Private AI Interaction

DuckDuckGo’s AI Chat is designed to provide a private and anonymous experience for users who want to interact with AI chatbots.

This optional feature is free to use within a daily limit and can be easily switched off if desired.

The company emphasizes that all chats are private, anonymized, and not used for any AI model training.

According to the Spreadprivacy blog, Users can access DuckDuckGo AI Chat through various entry points, including duck.ai, duckduckgo.com/chat, the Chat tab on search results pages, or via the !ai and !chat bang shortcuts.

All these routes lead to the same destination, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Why AI Chat?

DuckDuckGo’s mission is to demonstrate that online privacy can be easily maintained.

The company believes people should be able to use the internet and digital tools without sacrificing their privacy.

This philosophy has driven the development of products that add a layer of privacy to everyday online activities, from search and browsing to email and now generative AI with AI Chat.

According to recent Pew research, many U.S. adults have concerns about AI’s impact on privacy, even as they recognize its potential benefits in other areas.

DuckDuckGo AI Chat aims to address these concerns by offering a private and anonymous way to use AI chatbots.

Enhancing The Search Experience

DuckDuckGo takes a thoughtful approach to integrating AI features in the competitive landscape of generative AI.

Before rolling out, the company carefully considers how these features can enhance the search and browsing experience.

AI Chat and search are seen as complementary tools that can help users find information more effectively, especially when exploring new topics.

For instance, users might start with AI Chat to ask a few questions and then switch to traditional search to find reviews, prices, or other primary sources.

Conversely, they might begin with a search and then use AI Chat for follow-up queries.

This flexibility allows users to choose the method that best suits their needs.

How It Works And Ensures Privacy

Users can select their preferred chat model and interact like any other chat interface when they land on the AI Chat page.

All chats are completely anonymous, with DuckDuckGo removing users’ IP addresses and using its own instead.

This ensures that requests appear from DuckDuckGo, not the individual user.

DuckDuckGo does not save or store any chats. While the underlying model providers may temporarily store chats to ensure system functionality, they cannot trace them back to individual users.

Agreements with model providers ensure that any saved chats are deleted within 30 days and are not used for model training.

AI Chat is free to use within a daily limit, maintaining strict user anonymity.

DuckDuckGo plans to keep the current level of access free while exploring a paid plan for higher usage limits and more advanced chat models.

DuckDuckGo is already working on improvements to AI Chat, including new capabilities like custom system prompts and general user experience enhancements.

The company also plans to add more chat models, potentially including DuckDuckGo– or user-hosted options.

Users are encouraged to provide feedback on desired features via the Share Feedback button on the AI Chat screen.

To experience DuckDuckGo AI Chat, visit duck.ai or duckduckgo.com/chat.

You can also find it on your search results page under the Chat tab or initiate a chat using the !ai or !chat bang shortcuts.

If AI Chat isn’t for you, it can be easily disabled in the Search settings menu.

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Tags: Chatbots, DuckDuckGo

Apr 11 2024

DuckDuckGo Is Taking Its Privacy Fight to Data Brokers

Category: Information Privacy,Web Search Engine,Web Securitydisc7 @ 8:03 am

For more than a decade, DuckDuckGo has rallied against Google’s extensive online tracking. Now the privacy-focused web search and browser company has another target in its sights: the sprawling, messy web of data brokers that collect and sell your data every single day.

Today, DuckDuckGo is launching a new browser-based tool that automatically scans data broker websites for your name and address and requests that they be removed. Gabriel Weinberg, the company’s founder and CEO, says the personal-information-removal product is the first of its kind where users don’t have to submit any of their details to the tool’s owners. The service will make the requests for information to be removed and then continually check if new records have been added, Weinberg says. “We’ve been doing it to automate it completely end-to-end, so you don’t have to do anything.

The personal-information removal is part of DuckDuckGo’s first subscription service, called Privacy Pro, and is bundled with the firm’s first VPN and an identity-theft-restoration service. Weinberg says the subscription offering, which is initially available only in the US for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, is part of an effort to add to the privacy-focused tools it provides within its web browser and search engine. “There’s only so much we can do in that browsing loop, there’s things happening outside of that, and a big one is data brokers, selling information scraped from different places,” Weinberg says.

The data broker industry is a far-reaching, $200-plus billion market, which collects, buys, and sells as much information as it can. A lack of comprehensive privacy laws in the US allows companies to easily trade everything from people’s names and addresses to financial data and specific GPS coordinates gathered from your phone. (The recently proposed American Privacy Rights Act, if passed, would create a new registry of data brokers and give people some European-style privacy rights).

DuckDuckGo’s personal-information-removal tool—for now, at least—is taking the privacy fight to people-search websites, which allow you to look up names, addresses, and some details of family members. However, Weinberg says DuckDuckGo has created it so the company isn’t gathering details about you, and it is built on technology from Removaly, which the company acquired in 2022.

Ahead of its launch, the company demonstrated how the system works and some of the engineering efforts that went into its creation. On the surface, the removal tool is straightforward: You access it through the company’s browser and enter some information about yourself, such as your name, year of birth, and any addresses. It then scans 53 data broker websites for results linked to you and requests those results to be wiped. (All 53 data brokers included have opt-out schemes that allow people to make requests.) A dashboard shows updates about what has been removed and when it will next scan those websites again, in case new records have been added.

Under the hood, things are more complex. Greg Fiorentino, a product director at DuckDuckGo, says when you enter your personal data into the system, it’s all saved in an encrypted database on your computer (the tool doesn’t work on mobile), and the company isn’t sent this information. “It doesn’t go to DuckDuckGo servers at all,” he says.

For each of the data brokers’ websites, Fiorentino says, DuckDuckGo looked at its URL structure: For instance, search results may include the name, location, and other personal information that are queried. When the personal information tool looks for you on these websites, it constructs a URL with the details you have entered.

“Each of the 53 sites we cover has a slightly different structure,” Fiorentino says. “We have a template URL string that we substitute the data in from the user to search. There are lots of different nuances and things that we need to be able to handle to actually match the data correctly.”

During testing, the company says, it found most people have between 15 and 30 records on the data broker sites it checks, although the highest was around 150. Weinberg says he added six addresses to be removed from websites. “I found hits on old stuff, and even in the current address, which I really tried to hide a bit from getting spam at, it’s still out there somehow,” Weinberg says. “It’s really hard to avoid your information getting out there.”

Once the scan for records has been completed, the DuckDuckGo system, using a similar deconstruction of each of the data broker websites, will then automatically make requests for the records to be removed, the team working on the product say. Fiorentino says some opt-outs will happen within hours, whereas others can take weeks to remove the data. The product director says that in the future, the tool may be able to remove data from more websites, and the company is looking at potentially including more sensitive data in the opt-outs, such as financial information.

Various personal-information-removal services exist on the web, and they can vary in what they remove from websites or the services they provide. Not all are trustworthy. Recently, Mozilla, the creator of the Firefox browser, stopped working with identity protection service Onerep after investigative journalist Brian Krebs revealed that the founder of Onerep also founded dozens of people-search websites in recent years.

DuckDuckGo’s subscription service marks the first time the company has started charging for a product—its browser and search engine are free to use, and the firm makes its money from contextual ads. Weinberg says that, because subscriptions are purchased through Apple’s App Store, Google Play, or with payment provider Stripe, details about who subscribes are not transferred to DuckDuckGo’s servers. A random ID is created for each user when they sign up, so people don’t have to create an account or hand DuckDuckGo their payment information. The company says it doesn’t have access to people’s Apple IDs or Google account details.

For its identity-theft-restoration service, DuckDuckGo says it is working with identity protection service Iris, which uses trained staff to help with fraudulent banking activity, document replacement, emergency travel, and more. DuckDuckGo says no information is shared between it and Iris.

Weinberg says that while the company’s main focus is providing free and easy-to-use privacy tools to people, running a VPN and the removal tool requires a different business model. “It just takes a lot of bandwidth,” he says of the VPN.

Broadly, the VPN industry, which allows people to hide their web traffic from internet providers and avoid geographic restrictions on streaming, has historically been full of companies with questionable records when it comes to privacy and people’s data. Free VPNs have long been a privacy nightmare.

DuckDuckGo says its VPN, which it built in-house and which uses the WireGuard protocol, does not store any logs of people’s activities and can be used on up to five devices at once. “We don’t have any record of website visits, DNS requests, IP addresses connected, or session lengths,” the company says in its documentation. The VPN runs through its browser, with 13 location options at launch, but shields all internet traffic passing through your phone or computer.

The company says it is conducting a third-party audit of the VPN to allow its claims to be scrutinized, and it will publish the full audit once it’s complete. “We really wanted to do something in the VPN space for a long time, we just didn’t have the resources and people to do it,” Weinberg says. “We looked at partnering in different places. If we have to completely trust a partner versus building something where we can make it anonymous, we decided we would want to do it ourselves.”

Why you should use Duckduckgo as your search engine NOW!

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    Tags: DuckDuckGo

    Nov 19 2021

    DuckDuckGo Wants to Stop Apps From Tracking You on Android

    At the end of April, Apple’s introduction of App Tracking Transparency tools shook the advertising industry to its core. iPhone and iPad owners could now stop apps from tracking their behavior and using their data for personalized advertising. Since the new privacy controls launched, almost $10 billion has been wiped from the revenues of Snap, Meta Platform’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    Now, a similar tool is coming to Google’s Android operating system—although not from Google itself. Privacy-focused tech company DuckDuckGo, which started life as a private search engine, is adding the ability to block hidden trackers to its Android app. The feature, dubbed “App Tracking Protection for Android,” is rolling out in beta from today and aims to mimic Apple’s iOS controls. “The idea is we block this data collection from happening from the apps the trackers don’t own,” says Peter Dolanjski, a director of product at DuckDuckGo. “You should see far fewer creepy ads following you around online.”

    The vast majority of apps have third-party trackers tucked away in their code. These trackers monitor your behavior across different apps and help create profiles about you that can include what you buy, demographic data, and other information that can be used to serve you personalized ads. DuckDuckGo says its analysis of popular free Android apps shows more than 96 percent of them contain trackers. Blocking these trackers means Facebook and Google, whose trackers are some of the most prominent, can’t send data back to the mothership—neither will the dozens of advertising networks you’ve never heard of.

    From a user perspective, blocking trackers with DuckDuckGo’s tool is straightforward. App Tracking Protection appears as an option in the settings menu of its Android app. For now, you’ll see the option to get on a waitlist to access it. But once turned on, the feature shows the total number of trackers blocked in the last week and gives a breakdown of what’s been blocked in each app recently. Open up the app of the Daily Mail, one of the world’s largest news websites, and DuckDuckGo will instantly register that it is blocking trackers from Google, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Adobe, and advertising company Taboola. An example from DuckDuckGo showed more than 60 apps had tracked a test phone thousands of times in the last seven days.Most Popular

    My own experience bore that out. Using a box-fresh Google Pixel 6 Pro, I installed 36 popular free apps—some estimates claim people install around 40 apps on their phones—and logged into around half of them. These included the McDonald’s app, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, and BBC Sounds. Then, with a preview of DuckDuckGo’s Android tracker blocking turned on, I left the phone alone for four days and didn’t use it at all. In 96 hours, 23 of these apps had made more than 630 tracking attempts in the background.

    Using your phone on a daily basis—opening and interacting with apps—sees a lot more attempted tracking. When I opened the McDonald’s app, trackers from Adobe, cloud software firm New Relic, Google, emotion-tracking firm Apptentive, and mobile analytics company Kochava tried to collect data about me. Opening the eBay and Uber apps—but not logging into them—was enough to trigger Google trackers.

    At the moment, the tracker blocker doesn’t show what data each tracker is trying to send, but Dolanjski says a future version will show what broad categories of information each commonly tries to access. He adds that in testing the company has found some trackers collecting exact GPS coordinates and email addresses.

    “You should see far fewer creepy ads following you around online.”


    DuckDuckGo Wants to Stop Apps From Tracking You on Android

    Tags: Apps From Tracking, DuckDuckGo

    Sep 16 2020

    Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is growing fast

    Category: Information PrivacyDISC @ 10:47 pm

    DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, announced that August 2020 ended in over 2 billion total searches via its search platform.

    Source: Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is growing fast

    Tags: DuckDuckGo, privacy concerns