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DuckDuckGo trebles searches after Prism surveillance scandal

Warwick Ashford

DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not track users' activities, has shot to prominence following revelations about user data request to technology companies by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Google was among the high-profile technology companies named by whistleblower Edward Snowden when he revealed the NSA’s Prism online monitoring programme.

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Since the revelations, the number of people using non-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo has trebled.

The search engine had reached a million searches a day in the four years since it was founded, but reached three million in eight days after the Prism scandal broke, according to the Telegraph.

In recent days, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg has appeared on several US television shows taking about his company’s decision not to track or profile users.

Meanwhile, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond has denied his company is “'in cahoots with NSA”, reiterating calls for global governmental action to regulate secret collection of data.

He said Google would continue to push to be able to publish more information about secret requests for data, according to the Guardian.

Drummond believes governments must codify regulations on silent data gathering so that users around the world can regain confidence in the use of the internet, the paper said.

Earlier this week, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Yahoo published the number of data requests received from US authorities in a bid to counter the allegations that they had provided direct access to their systems as part of the Prism programme.

Google’s Drummond has also reiterated the company's position that it has not given the NSA access to its servers, and that it did not know of the Prism programme before Snowden’s revelation last week.

Drummond said it was “high time” that governments get together and decide some rules around secret data gathering.

“Remember that this is not just about the US government, but European and other governments too. It's really important that all of us give close scrutiny to any laws that give governments increased power to sift through user data,” he told the Guardian.

The technology companies Snowden linked to Prism have all expressed frustration at not being able to say how many of the data access requests were made through controversial secret national security letters.

Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, called on the US government to reconsider its stance on this issue in a blog post.

“Like all companies, Yahoo cannot lawfully break out FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] request numbers at this time, because those numbers are classified,” she wrote.

Yahoo said it planned to issue its first global law enforcement transparency report later this summer, which will cover the first half of the year.

“As always, we will continually evaluate whether further actions can be taken to protect the privacy of our users and our ability to defend it,” Mayer wrote in her blog post.


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