DuckDuckGo's Privacy Push: Apple Talks Collapse Amid Google Antitrust Trial

06.10.2023 posted by Admin

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On October 5th, in a significant antitrust trial involving Google's Alphabet unit, Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO of the privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, revealed that talks with Apple regarding a potential partnership fell through. The reason behind this failure, as per Weinberg, was Apple's reluctance to relinquish the substantial payments it receives from Google.

Weinberg, who is also the founder of DuckDuckGo, testified on September 21st, shedding light on how Google's annual payments of $10 billion to smartphone manufacturers and other entities to maintain Google as the default search engine on devices have impacted DuckDuckGo.

A redacted transcript, disclosed recently, unveiled that DuckDuckGo had entered into an agreement with Apple back in 2014 to be presented as an alternative on Apple devices. Subsequently, DuckDuckGo began advocating for Apple to make it the default choice for users who preferred privacy mode, which limits the collection of user data.

It's a common aspiration for app developers to become the default option in their respective domains, whether it's for search, maps, or any other service, given that many users either can't or are hesitant to change default settings.

Weinberg noted that Apple displayed genuine interest in 2016, and discussions between the two companies' executives took place in 2017 and 2018 regarding the transition to DuckDuckGo as the default choice for privacy-conscious users. At that time, DuckDuckGo held a 2.5% share of the search market, according to Weinberg's testimony.

During these meetings, Apple's executives repeatedly raised concerns that their distribution agreements with Google might pose obstacles to the switch. Weinberg argued that the potential deal fizzled out in 2019 primarily due to the financial incentives from Google.

John Giannandrea, responsible for machine learning and AI strategy at Apple, had his testimony, which was initially confidential, made public. In his testimony from September, Giannandrea revealed that Apple had contemplated the idea of purchasing or using Bing as the default search engine instead of Google. However, he opposed this notion due to Bing's perceived lower-quality search results.

The Department of Justice has stated that Google, which commands approximately 90% of the search market, pays around $10 billion annually to Apple, as well as other smartphone manufacturers and partners, to maintain its status as the default search engine. This dominant position in the search industry has significantly bolstered Google's presence and profitability in the lucrative advertising market.
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