Want free and anonymous access to AI chatbots? DuckDuckGo's new tool is for you

The privacy-minded DuckDuck Go promises that your chats are private, anonymized, and not used for AI model training.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
DuckDuckGo's new AI Chat tool
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Those of you who'd like anonymous access to several generative AI chatbots all in one place may want to check out DuckDuckGo's new AI chat tool. Announced last Thursday, the service lets you try four different AI models through a dedicated AI website or the DuckDuckGo browser.

Included in the mix are GPT-3.5 Turbo, Claude 3 Haiku, Meta Llama 3, and Mistral's Mixtral 8x7B. All four are freely accessible through DuckDuckGo, though you may bump into an unspecified daily limit on the number of queries you can submit.

Also: The best secure browsers for privacy in 2024

Being able to access several AI chatbots in the same place is certainly convenient. But the real benefit here is the anonymity. When you use such services at ChatGPT and Meta AI, your chats aren't necessarily private. Moderators may read your conversations to make sure you're not abusing the system. Plus, your chats can be used to help train the AI.

To protect your privacy, the chats you conduct through DuckDuckGo's AI chat tool are anonymous and aren't saved or stored by the company or the AI services, at least not permanently.

To anonymize your conversations, DuckDuckGo says that it removes your IP address and replaces it with one of its own. This makes it seem as if the requests are coming from the company and not from you.

Also: How to change your IP address, why you'd want to - and when you shouldn't

Your chats may be stored by the AI model providers temporarily, but DuckDuckGo promises that there's no way to tie the conversations back to you since all the metadata is removed. The company added that agreements with the AI services require that all saved chats are deleted within 30 days and that none of their content can be used to train the models.

Looking ahead, DuckDuckGo plans to keep the current access free but is considering a paid option with higher limits and more advanced AI models. Also on the horizon are custom system prompts and general improvements to the chat experience.

To take DuckDuckGo's AI chat for a spin, head to either Duck.ai or DuckDuckGo Chat in the browser of your choice. Alternatively, download and install the DuckDuckGo browser if you don't already have it. In the browser, click the three-lined hamburger icon and select AI Chat.

Whether you use the URL or DuckDuckGo's browser, click the Get Started button the first time you try this. You're asked to choose which of the four AI models you want to use. Select one, click Next, and then agree to the usage terms. You can now type and submit your request at the prompt the same way you would if you used one of the chatbots directly.

As you try the different chatbots through DuckDuckGo, always keep in mind that today's generative AI chatbots are far from perfect. They can hallucinate, which means they may give you wrong information.

Also: The best AI image generators of 2024: Tested and reviewed

I selected GPT-3.5 Turbo and posed the question "What was Fiddler on the Roof based on?" (I saw Fiddler on the Roof yesterday at a local theater, so the play was on my mind.)

GPT-3.5 Turbo correctly told me that it was based on a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem. But it claimed that one of the stories was written in 1964, an amazing feat since Sholem Aleichem died in 1916. I corrected the chatbot, and it apologized for the mistake.

But this type of error circles back to the convenience of having several AI chatbots in one place. You can easily switch from one model to another and ask the same question. You can then see how each bot answers you to better gauge which ones are correct and which ones may be hallucinating.

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