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Search site's billboard challenges Google on privacy, the stripped-down, Google-alternative Internet search site that Valley Forge resident Gabriel Weinberg started in 2008, is looking more like a business., the stripped-down, Google-alternative Internet search site that Valley Forge resident Gabriel Weinberg started in 2008, is looking more like a business.

Weinberg, a 2001 MIT grad, cashed in when he sold, to Classmates Online Inc. in 2006. He moved here from New England to start a family with his wife, who worked at GlaxoSmithKline.

DuckDuckGo has begun linking searches to offers, "If they're for good products," to those users "who search for stuff that may be shopping-related," Weinberg says. His site gets paid when those users end up buying from Amazon.

Weinberg said he paid $7,000 last week to post a billboard in San Francisco questioning Google's privacy policies and directing searchers to his own site, a challenge that won coverage in Wired, TechCrunch, and other software media.

What's wrong with Google? Many users don't realize how the search terms they put into that popular search engine are collected at the sites they visit, Weinberg said in an interview. "While there's millions of websites that run ads, there's only a few ad networks. All those sites are running the same third-party code that can aggregate all your searches. So the ad network can [collect] all your searches" - and learn a lot you might want to keep private. DuckDuckGo promises to redirect queries, track-free.

Google spokesman Rob Shilkin responded with a prepared statement: "It's unfortunate that DuckDuckGo is preying on people's fears and offering incomplete information in order to garner attention."

Shilkin called "inaccurate" a claim on Weinberg's propaganda page,, that Google might enable drug companies to learn about herpes sufferers who looked up information on the disease. He said Google offers users the tools to block search-tracking, if that is what they wish to do. Still, Weinberg says his message is penetrating: "We were getting 2.5 million searches a month. It spiked with this billboard. I'm going to do 3.5 million, 4 million searches this month," according to internal data. shows DuckDuckGo at around 200,000 unique users last month, 40 percent more than rival venture capital-funded search site (which last fall began sharing some search functions with DuckDuckGo). Both upstarts were dwarfed by Google's 150 million. But also showed Google users haven't been increasing, while the smaller services are growing faster. Time to raise money? "The search-engine landscape is littered with well-funded companies that have gone under," Weinberg says. "I've self-funded this."

Weinberg has also been an organizer in Philadelphia's software-startup community. He's among the planners of the Open Angel Forum, a March 16 event that has enrolled more than a dozen small and cash-hungry firms that will meet with local funders, including Josh Kopelman, of Conshohocken-based First Round Capital; Philadelphia-based cofounder Jim Young; and Scott Becker, one of four Penn '08 graduates who founded Invite Media, which fetched more than $80 million when Google bought it last year.