Search Leakage

This Is How I Got My Internet Privacy Back

Search engines are part of our lives. We use them and take them for granted. Not realizing that we are benefiting from an excellent service. In fact, by just typing our intentions through a search box, we’re able to find the answers to any question we have. Ancient Egyptian would have marveled to this feat if they could have used it to find information within the Library of Alexandria. Instead, today Google little crawlers venture through billions of pages to find what we need in less than a second. A feat that a human mind would never be able to achieve.

What happens when you search something?

Each day over two billion searches, go through Google. Many of the people who search are looking for something personal. Imagine a person on her laptop, which suddenly found out to have cancer, and she looks through the internet to find out more about that. Yet she doesn’t want other people to know.

The day after at the office, while using the work computer with her Google account, she is surfing the web with other colleagues. Suddenly an advertising related to cancer treatment pops up. The news about her disease has leaked. Because of that, she loses her freedom to decide when to let others know about something very personal.

That is an extreme example, but every day we submit dozens if not hundreds of searches through engines, like Google. Making sure that they do not record your data is crucial. Yet that is not the rule but the exception.

In fact, when you perform a search using a standard search engine you are sharing personal info. Moreover, the search terms are sent over to the sites you clicked on. Thus, when you search, you are sharing the search info not only with your search engine but also with all the places that you are visiting.

That is called search leakage. What do search engines see when you surf the web? And how can you prevent that?

Treat your IP like your SSN

Almost like the SSN (social security number) in the US, which is a string of nine digits that keeps track of all your vital life activities. The IP stands for Internet Protocol and it is a set of numbers linked to all your online activity. While you would never give your SSN to anyone – as this would result in a theft of identity – paradoxically you’re giving away for free each day your IP to standard search engines.

Another information that you’re sharing is the User Agent, which identifies the browser and device you’re using.

Through your IP and User agent you may be sharing the following information:

  • Age, sex, location, address.
  • Salary, last purchases, bank name.
  • Facebook profile, Twitter account, email account, social media tags.
  • Political tendencies, beliefs, medical conditions


How can you prevent search leakage?

As explained on

At other search engines, when you do a search and then click on a link, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on (in the HTTP referrer header). We call this sharing of personal information “search leakage.”

search leakage

As we saw, the thing is you’re not only sharing that personal information with search engines but also with the websites where you land on. Apparently, that information may also be used to track you.

What about DuckDukcGo?

DuckDuckGo prevents search leakage by default. Instead, when you click on a link on our site, we route (redirect) that request in such a way so that it does not send your search terms to other sites. The other sites will still know that you visited them, but they will not know what search you entered beforehand.

The same applies to search history and all the related information that can be found from the data that gets stored. To see it more in detail go to DuckDuckGo.

If you haven’t done it yet, switch to DuckDuckGo


Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Creator of | Head of Business Development at | International MBA

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