A private alternative to Google Maps: DuckDuckGo Maps

DuckDuckGo is not just a private alternative to Google and Bing web search. It has a built-in online mapping solution designed with privacy in mind. If you want to leave Google, you can do so without having to stay on Google Maps.


What can DuckDuckGo maps do?

You will find them Maps DuckDuckGo as a search filter at the top of the page when you do a search on DuckDuckGo. You may also see maps appear with the results, especially if you are looking for a place name.

Searching for a local business such as a "pharmacy near me" adapts search results to your location approximately. The option to enable more accurate results by using the map pin icon in the upper right corner of the map will give you even more accurate results of a local business. You can search for a place and then use the Directions button to get detailed instructions, both driving and walking.

You have two views to choose from: the normal map view and the satellite view. You will see some information about what you are looking for on the left of the map, which you can collapse by clicking the small arrow.

The problem with Google Maps

Google Maps is probably the best free web mapping tool. You can use it to find nearby businesses, get directions to where you are going, check traffic before you leave and see exactly what your destination looks like thanks to Street View. Bing maps play a secondary role in this area, but they are also a powerful mapping tool.

Unfortunately, using these services comes at a price: your privacy. Google and Bing are trying to gather as much information about their users as possible. They do this so that they can learn as much as possible about you, so that they can show you more targeted ads (the ones you click on).

But privacy concerns do not end there. Both Google and Bing also use trackers in an effort to track your web browsing activity. This is done again to gather as much information as possible about you so that the marketing can be tailored to your interests.

If you've been looking for a product, you've probably seen it appear in banner ads for weeks after, and so you've seen this mechanism in action.

Google Maps, as an extension of Google, is subject to the same data collection practices as any other Google service. This means that wherever you are looking for something, it is stored in your name and used for marketing. In 2018, it was revealed that Google, in some cases, had stored location data, even after its users said not to do so.

DuckDuckGo: Private Web Search, Private Map Search

The DuckDuckGo is a search engine which stores as little information as possible about its users. Searches are made immediately anonymous and no trackers are allowed. Since protecting user privacy is the only focus of DuckDuckGo, Google Maps and Bing Maps should not be your choice for providing maps and local search results.

But DuckDuckGo is a small search engine. There is no way to have the resources to develop its own mapping solution from scratch. So DuckDuckGo started looking for another solution, and it found it in Apple Maps.

Create DuckDuckGo maps with MapKit

Since creating a custom mapping solution was never an option for the company, DuckDuckGo decided to use Apple MapKit JS API, which first appeared at WWDC 2018. In short, MapKit JS provides developers with the tools they need to use Apple Maps.

MapKit was chosen because it does not require DuckDuckGo to disclose during use, any information on Apple. As DuckDuckGo explains in a post on his blog:

"Our strict privacy policy for non-collection or sharing of personal information extends to this integration. We do not send personally identifiable information, such as an IP address to Apple or any other third party.

Apple is also talking about a powerful privacy game for Maps (and many of its other features). And respectively promises :

"The data that Maps collects while you use the app - such as search terms, navigation and traffic information - is related to random IDs, not your Apple ID. These IDs are automatically reset as you use the app to ensure the best possible experience and improve Maps. ”

DuckDuckGo has made its Maps approximate for use and for more accurate locations. By default, all search results are approximate until you click the map pin icon in the upper-right corner of the page.

The search engine stated that it uses a standard geolocation search, using an IP address to resolve your location, without storing or disclosing this information to third parties. In documentation that explains how DuckDuckGo handles local results, the search engine reports:

"If you allow DuckDuckGo to use this [exact location] information, your browser's more accurate location will be notified to us along with your search query, leading to more accurate search results. With regard to the use of DuckDuckGo, this process is as anonymous as with GEO :: IP search, because similarly we never store this personal information in server logs, in accordance with our strict privacy policy.

As DuckDuckGo put it: "Even if you choose to share a more expensive site, your searches will still be completely anonymous."

An interesting caveat for MapKit JS is that most applications that use it are limited to 250.000 map calls and 25.000 service calls each day. DuckDuckGo does not appear to be subject to these same limits, which may indicate that the search engine has entered into a special agreement with Apple.

Protection of personal data at the cost of convenience and features

While Apple Maps has come a long way since its controversial first release, alongside iOS 6 in 2012, it still can't compete with Google or Bing in terms of search capabilities or results. The service is mainly available through special applications to users of Apple devices such as the iPhone and Mac, and this severely limits the number of people who can use it.

Without the huge number of searches performed on competing platforms, there is less (anonymous) data to improve the service. Businesses may consider updating their Google Maps listings long before they think about Apple Maps.

Apple Maps for Mac, iPhone, and iPad lets you save favorite places and transfer tracks to other devices, but you can't use them on DuckDuckGo Maps. This is not an extension of Apple service, it is a completely separate service that utilizes the underlying technology.

Also missing are many of the features you'll find in Apple Maps standalone applications, such as Apple's impressive 3D XNUMXD photogrammetry, street-level photography, traffic information, and public transit or cycling directions.

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Google and Bing offer many of these features in their web applications and through specific mobile applications. It is also more difficult to use DuckDuckGo Maps for navigation, as there is no support for detailed instructions, even using the DuckDuckGo apps for Android and iPhone (although iPhone users can press "Navigate Apple Maps" to transfer path to the native application, which works perfectly).

It is also worth noting that you may experience more inconsistencies with routes and results compared to the most commonly used map services, such as Google Maps.

But Apple maps on DuckDuckGo do not have dull censored fields. There are spots on Google Maps that either because of some public interest, or because a user requested it, entire areas are not visible. To be precise, it has large pixels. This does not happen at DuckDuckGo and so you can easily see from the prisons in Korydallos, to the fuel depots in Perama and all the camps in Greece.

A private mapping solution that works

Although DuckDuckGo Maps is built into Apple's restrictive API, it's a commendable effort to create a free mapping tool that provides both local results and driving and walking directions.

We hope that Apple will improve and expand its API over time, which means more features and better results. Thinking of switching to DuckDuckGo? Learn more about the search engine that protects your privacy.

If DuckDuckGo Maps is not what you are looking for, try OpenStreetMap . It is an open mapping solution created by the community. DuckDuckGo had previously used OpenStreetMap before changed in 2016 in Apple Maps.

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