One of the much-debated issues on practically every technology forum in the past year has been data security.
While the cybersecurity experts have been discussing the matter, it possibly hit the ordinary user of the internet hard when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal hogged media space in early 2018.
People who had been mindlessly sharing a lot of personal information on social media sites like Facebook were rudely awakened from their slumber.
A few months later, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in Europe.
The cumulative effect of all these events is a challenge to established tech companies of the likes of Google. As a result, alternative privacy-focused search engines such as DuckDuckGo are seeing their user base expand.
Just this month, DuckDuckGo shared on Twitter that it had reached 30 million search requests in a day.
DuckDuckGo does not collect search history of the users on its platform, nor does it serve them back with ads like Google or even as Microsoft’s Bing does.
Rapid Rise to 30 Million
There would not have been any need for the detailed narrative above if it were not for the fact that DuckDuckGo went from traffic counts of 10 million to 30 million in less than three years, and the last 10 million was achieved within the course of a year.
This has to be appreciated in the perspective of the search engine taking seven long years to reach the first 10 million.
There is no other proof needed to establish this trend that the public at large would prefer to keep its browsing history private and on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is for sharing personal data with third parties and 10 for not willing to share, the majority would pick 10 or 9 and not anything lower.
A Lot is Being Done; Still a Long Way to Go
One may argue that in the present context, a figure of 30 million for DuckDuckGo appears too little when pitted against the billions of searches that Google is engaged in each day. However, more dramatic changes have happened in this industry.
What has worried many users, especially the ones with knowledge on this subject, is that the ads that are served up after Google uses its algorithms to track your choices, and suppliers to these advertisers are often responsible of phishing attacks and hacks.
To be fair to the large corporations who have been exposed in the recent months of having taken the issue of data privacy lightly, they have all initiated some action or the other, to arrest this trend.
Google, for example, has tried to put some restrictions on the data access rules for apps on the Google Play Store.
These are limited actions, which may yield partial results in the short and medium terms. For the right long-term solutions, there may be a total paradigm shift needed.
Ultimately, it all begins with a free service being provided and in return, data being collected to be subsequently monetized. Can this cycle be broken? Will the same public be ready to pay for some of these facilities? One has to wait and watch.