Tor switches to DuckDuckGo search results by default

Tor users are currently being served DuckDuckGo search results by default.

In a note on what it dubs its “search engine situation” the pro-privacy browsing netTor users are currently being served DuckDuckGo search results by confirms it is still using privacy tool Disconnect as its search provider but has asked it to switch to DDG results, owing to an issue with Disconnect’s access to Google’s search results.

Tor writes:

[F]or a while now Disconnect has no access to Google search results anymore which we used in Tor Browser. Disconnect being more a meta search engine which allows users to choose between different search providers fell back to delivering Bing search results which were basically unacceptable quality-wise. While Disconnect is still trying to fix the situation we asked them to change the fallback to DuckDuckGo as their search results are strictly better than the ones Bing delivers.

It is still possible for Tor users to specify they wish to search via Bing (or Yahoo) via Disconnect. But Google is not currently an option. (Although Tor users can of course choose to browse directly to use Google if they wish — with all the baked in tracking that searching via Google entails.)

Disconnect became the default search provider for Tor back in May 2015. It routes searches via its servers to help obscure the user’s IP address — a feature which aligns with the private browsing mission of Tor.

Although Disconnect was founded by several ex-Googlers it has not enjoyed the smoothest relationship with Mountain View — with the latter removing its anti-tracking mobile app from its Android Play Store back in 2014. Then in June last year Disconnect filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU on account of its app being banned.

We’ve reached out Disconnect, Google and Tor with questions about the situation and will update this post with any response.

Update: Disconnect co-founder Casey Oppenheim said Google is not actively blocking the service’s access “as far as we know”, telling TechCrunch: “Google is currently unavailable as an option inside our private search service, which appears to be related to Google’s deprecating their search APIs.”

He added that he’s hopeful of being able to restore access to Google search in future. “It’s an option many of our users wants,” he added.

Earlier this month private search engine DuckDuckGo made a $25,000 donation to Tor which in recent times has been trying to diversify its funding away from reliance on the US government — including launching a crowdfunding campaign which pulled in just over $200,000 at the start of this year.

Yesterday Tor released v6.0 of its anonymous browser bundle, the first stable release in the 6.0 series, detailing a range of bug fixes and privacy and security enhancements.