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Chester County based search engine sees surge in wake of NSA leaks scandal

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 01 2013 05:36:31 PM CDT

Duck Duck Go sees surge in light of Snowden controversy

PAOLI, Pa. -

Leaks about a top-secret government spying program have actually meant a big boost for one Chester Co. company.  Paoli-based Duck Duck Go is a search engine that encrypts everything users search for.  Since the news broke last month, their traffic has been through the roof.

"Our traffic has been up around 90 percent," said founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg.  "We started growing immediately after that news broke a few weeks ago."

Government contractor Edward Snowden leaked the details of the classified program, which tracks Americans' internet usage.  Snowden's father lives in Lehigh Co.

Unlike Google and Bing, Duck Duck Go does not track what you search for, and it encrypts most pages you link to.

"If you go to the ISP, the internet service provider in the middle -- between you and us -- all they see is kind of garbdly gook," said Weinberg.

Before the Snowden leaks, Weinberg said Duck Duck Go averaged one-point-eight million searches a day.  They're now up to three million.

"When you share things with your search engine, it's arguably the most personal stuff you share on the internet -- your medical, financial problems," Weinberg said.  "You may not want to hide that, but you don't want the whole world to know about it."

Weinberg even claims that sites tracking your searches can cost you money.

"You'll be going to a retailer and getting a different price than everyone else based on maybe what you searched for a week ago," he said.

But what about criminals hiding behind this secrecy?  After all, if you have nothing to hide, why should you worry anyway?

"Sophisticated people in that area can have a lot of options, and they can even still use Google if they wanted to by passing their data through many servers," said Weinberg.

Even though Duck Duck Go encrypts your searches, they can't guarantee the web sites you link to aren't being tracked.  According to Weinberg, many sites use Google Analytics to track users and sell that information to advertisers.