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DuckDuckGo has launched a new browser extension for Chrome that will prevent FLoC, a new tracking technique used by Google to support web advertising without identifying users.

Privacy browser DuckDuckGo has launched a new extension for Chrome that's designed to block Google's new algorithm for tracking users' browsing activity for ad selection.

DuckDuckGo's new browser extension blocks FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which Google introduced to users in March as a replacement for third-party cookies that track individuals across the web.

FLoC is proposed as a method for offering greater anonymity for users by concealing their browsing activity within a group (or 'cohort') of other anonymized users with similar browsing habits. In doing so, advertisers can offer up relevant ads to cohorts of several thousands of users with similar interests, while the identity of individual users remains hidden.

But some see problems with this proposal. While the idea of 'hiding' individuals within a group sounds like better news for user privacy, websites can still target users with ads based on their assigned 'FloC ID', which essentially offers up a summary of interests and demographic information based on a user's browsing habits. What's more, websites can theoretically still track individuals, owing to the fact that every time you visit a website, it records your IP address.

This is where DuckDuckGo's new tool comes in. Currently, FLoC is only being used within Google Chrome, and while it has not yet been rolled out en masse, Google has announced plans to begin trialing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers starting in Q2.

The FLoC-blocking feature is included in version 2021.4.8 and newer of the DuckDuckGo extension. DuckDuckGo Search is now also configured to opt out of FLoC.

"We're disappointed that, despite the many publicly voiced concerns with FLoC that have not yet been addressed, Google is already forcing FLoC upon users without explicitly asking them to opt-in," DuckDuckGo said in a blog post.

"We're nevertheless committed and will continue to do our part to deliver on our vision of raising the standard of trust online."

Google's Privacy Sandbox

Google has been working on a replacement for third-party cookies for some time. As detailed in a post on its Chromium Blog in January this year, FLoCs are one of a handful of methods the search giant is looking at as part of its 'Privacy Sandbox' for the web.

The company has claimed that FLoC algorithms are at least 95% as effective as cookie-based advertising when it comes to helping advertisers target users, which it says is "great news for users, publishers, and advertisers".

Chetna Bindra, Google's Group Product Manager for User Trust and Privacy, suggested in a blog post in January that tools like FLoC and other privacy-preserving methods proposed as part of Google's Privacy Sandbox would enhance fraud protection and prevent 'fingerprinting', whereby data from a user's browser is gathered to create a profile.

Bindra labeled FLoC a "privacy-first alternative to third-party cookies" that "effectively hides individuals 'in the crowd' and uses on-device processing to keep a person's web history private on the browser."

Yet others have pointed out that FLoC doesn't eliminate the threat of fingerprinting entirely. As well as the possibility of websites identifying users through a combination of their cohort ID and IP address, cohort IDs will also be accessible by any third-party trackers within the websites that users visit.

Google has said that it will work to ensure that "sensitive interest categories" like religion, identity, sexual interests, race, and medical or personal issues can't be used to target ads to users or to promote advertisers' products or services.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights group, argues that these precautions don't go far enough. "The proposal rests on the assumption that people in 'sensitive categories' will visit specific 'sensitive' websites, and that people who aren't in those groups will not visit said sites," it said in a blog post.

"But behavior correlates with demographics in unintuitive ways. It's highly likely that certain demographics are going to visit a different subset of the web than other demographics are, and that such behavior will not be captured by Google's 'sensitive sites' framing," the EFF added.

There are other methods for blocking FLoC, as laid out by DuckDuckGo. Unsurprisingly, the main one involves bypassing Google Chrome entirely – bear in mind, of course, that DuckDuckGo has its own competing browser in the game.

Users can also remain logged out of their Google account; switch off ad personalization within the Google Ad Settings; avoid syncing their search history data with Chrome; and disable Web & App Activity within Google's Activity Controls.

Google plans to roll out updated activity controls with the incoming Chrome 90 release.

[Source: This article was published in techrepublic.com By Owen Hughes - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander]

Categorized in Search Engine

GOOGLE’S GRIP ON the web has never been stronger. Its Chrome web browser has almost 70 percent of the market and its search engine a whopping 92 percent share. That’s a lot of data—and advertising revenue—for one of the world’s most powerful companies.

But Google’s dominance is being challenged. Regulators are questioning its monopoly position and claim the company has used anticompetitive tactics to strengthen its dominance. At the same time, a new wave of Google rivals hopes to capitalize on the greater public desire for online privacy.

Two years after publicly launching a privacy-focused browser, Brave, founded by former Mozilla executive Brendan Eich, is taking on Google’s search business too. The announcement of Brave Search puts the upstart in the rare position of taking on both Google’s browser and search dominance.

Eich says that Brave Search, which has opened a waitlist and will launch in the first half of this year, won’t track or profile people who use it. “Brave already has a default anonymous user model with no data collection at all,” he says adding this will continue in its search engine. No IP addresses will be collected and the company is exploring how it can create both a paid, ad-free search engine and one that comes with ads.

But building a search engine isn’t straightforward. It takes a lot of time and, more importantly, money. Google’s search algorithms have spent decades crawling the web, building up anindex of hundreds of billions of sites and ranking them in search results.

The depth of Google’s indexing has helped secure its market-leading position. Globally its nearest rival is Microsoft’s Bing, which has just 2.7 percent of the market. Bing’s own index of the web also helps to provide results in other Google rivals, such as DuckDuckGo which uses it as one of 400 sources that feed into search results.

Eich says Brave isn’t starting its search engine or index from scratch and won’t be using indexes from Bing or other tech firms. Instead Brave has purchased Tailcat, an offshoot of German search engine Cliqz, which was owned by Hubert Burda Media and closed down last year. The purchase includes an index of the web that’s been created by Tailcat and the technology that powers it. Eich says that some users will be given the ability to opt-in to anonymous data collection to help fine-tune search results.

“What Tailcat does is it looks at a query log and a click log anonymously,” Eich says. “These allow it to build an index, which Tailcat has done and already did at Cliqz, and it's getting bigger.” He admits that the index will not be anywhere near as deep as Google’s but that the top results it surfaces are largely the same.

“It's the web that the users care about,” says Eich. “You don't have to crawl the entire web in quasi-real-time as Google does.”

The Brave Search team are also working on filters, called Goggles, that will allow people to create a series of sources where search results are pulled from. People could, for example, use filters to only show product reviews that don’t contain affiliate links. A filter could also be set to only display results from independent media outlets.

And Google might soon have even more competition. There have been unconfirmed reports that Apple is building its own search engine, although this could see it lose billions of dollars that Google pays it to be the default search choice on its Safari browser. Further competition comes from Neeva, built by former Google engineers who plan to use a search subscription model; You.com, which is in an early testing phase; and British startup Mojeek, which has crawled more than three billion webpages using its own crawler tech.

It remains to be seen how much of a dent any of these rivals can make in Google’s dominance—or if they actually need to if they’re going to succeed. Google’s rivals can be successful in local markets and make profits on a much smaller scale. Search engine Seznam has an 11 percent market share in its native Czechia, while Russia’s Yandex has 45 percent of its local market share. DuckDuckGo, which has most of its users in the US and Europe, has made a profit since 2014 and passed 100 million daily searches for the first time in January.

The closure of Cliqz offers some important lessons. When it shuttered in April 2020, the company said that despite having hundreds of thousands of users it couldn’t cover its own costs. In the search business, some scale matters. “The world needs a private search engine that is not just using Bing or Google in the backend,” Cliqz said when it announced its closure.

Brave has one advantage when it comes to people who might use Brave Search: its web browser. The company says the browser, which launched in 2019, already has 25 million monthly active users— in the future they may all be potential search users too. However, Eich says Brave Search won’t be forced upon people as a default, to begin with.“We will have it as an alternative not as a default because we'll still feel like there's more work to do,” he says. “As it gets good enough, I think we will try to make it the default engine in Brave.”

[Source: This article was published in wired.com By Elena Lacey - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jason bourne]
Categorized in Search Engine

In the technology world, one of the major talking points centers on the challenges regarding consumer data privacy. There is no coherent approach, however, and many people have strong, and differing, opinions about privacy.
The consumer privacy debate pervades most things businesses and consumers do (even if many consumers are unaware). Taking 2021, this is seen with Apple's new strong stance on data privacy and how it’s impacting advertising, with the California Consumer Protection Act, and how Internet cookies are being phased out, people.

Many people remain unclear as to what they can do to ensure their data stays private. To gain some tips on what can be considered, Digital Journal caught up with Don Vaughn, Invisibly’s Head of Product.

Vaughn provides Digital Journal readers with the following suggestions for consumers that want to keep their data private.

Get a virtual private network (VPN)

A virtual private network provides a strong degree of privacy, anonymity, and security for people by creating a private network connection. Vaughn recommends: "People and companies can spy on what websites you’re visiting, where you are located, and your computer’s identification number. You can stop them by using a virtual private network) which protects your information and makes it look like you’re browsing using a computer somewhere else. "

Use a private search engine

Vaughn points out: "Google makes money by tracking you, collecting as much information as possible on you, and then sells your attention using adverts based on that." Instead a private search engine and be used, and Vaughn recommends using DuckDuckGo."
With such systems, there is very little risk that your searches will be leaked to anyone because most private search engines do not track any information that can link a user to their search terms.

Tune-up your privacy settings

Looking at this often neglected area, Vaughn proposes: "We leave a data trail about us every time we use social media. Most companies let us choose what should or should not be shared and others even let us choose what data should be deleted." To counter this, it is important that users manage their privacy settings for each social media site they use.

Have a Backup ”Public” Email or Unsubscribe From Unwanted Emails

Vaughn's communications tip runs: "When you provide your email address to a company, many times you end up being bombarded with marketing emails and spam. While many services offer an opt-out checkbox for marketing emails, it's easy to forget to do this every time we enter our email online." It is important to unsubscribe from these services.
Expanding upon this, Vaughn notes: "If you use a bulk unsubscribe email service, make sure you are using a safe service. Some free services could collect and sell your data. If you are willing to pay for such a service, as an example, Clean Email is safe and does not sell their user’s data."
Check Permissions
Vaughn's final tip goes: "Most apps and browser extensions have a list of permissions that you sign off on when you start using that service. Sometimes, permissions are required for a service to work. By double-checking the permissions an app has access to, you could be stopping an app from accessing certain data it doesn’t have to access."

[Source: This article was published in digitaljournal.com By Tim Sandle - Uploaded by the Association Member: David J. Redcliff]  

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Sometime in late 2019, I became increasingly more concerned with personal privacy. I’ve never been the type of person to lean into sharing details with companies when I didn’t need to, but I became aware of the ways I was “leaking” data to companies. One of the easiest things I did to help curtail some of the data I was sharing was changing my default web search to DuckDuckGo, and after a year of using it, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it.

Table of contents

  • Google is better, but I still use DuckDuckGo
  • DuckDuckGo is using Bing results with extra data added
  • Changing your default is easy
  • Google isn’t selling your data
  • Should Apple buy DuckDuckGo?
  • Wrap up on DuckDuckGo as my default search

Google is better, but I still use DuckDuckGo

One of the opinions I’ve heard from others about switching to DuckDuckGo is that they believe Google provides better search results. I agree with them, but that hasn’t changed my opinion. Google is the best search engine globally, and there is no changing that fact. Just because it’s the best doesn’t mean it’s good to use. Facebook is the best way to stay connected to people, but I still don’t want to use it.

If you want the best search results, then use Google. If you want excellent search results that aren’t used to target you with better ads, use DuckDuckGo. For me, I’ve decided that protecting my privacy is a worthy trade-off for slightly worse search results. I still generally find what I am looking for when searching.

DuckDuckGo is using Bing results with extra data added

DuckDuckGo isn’t crawling the web in the same way that Google crawls it. Yes, they do have some crawlers, but they use a host of data they pull together in such a way where you aren’t tracked by it. Some of the search results are pulled in from Bing, while others are populated from Apple Maps, Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha, etc. It’s estimated that they use over 400 sources in total to populate their data. I personally like this approach of sourcing data from multiple places in order to provide better results.

I particularly like the integration with Apple Maps on iPhone as I can quickly search for a place and then launch the directions in Apple Maps. Google Search obviously integrates with Google Maps, and that’s yet another service I’ve chosen not to use.

Although DuckDuckGo has sponsored search results, they aren’t based on targeted data they know about you. On top of that, Google’s search results have, in my use, started showing increasingly more ads above the organic results, so it’s become even harder to use. DuckDuckGo lets me quickly find what I need.

Changing your default is easy

While Apple still ships Google as the default browser search engine, it’s straightforward to switch to DuckDuckGo as your default. On the Mac, there is a tab in your preferences for default search in Safari.

Changing your default is easy

On iOS, go to Setting > Safari > Search Engine, and you’ll see the option to switch to DuckDuckGo.

DuckDuckGo 1

Now, all of your Safari searches will be routed through DDG instead of Google. I have the DuckDuckGo homepage set as my default homepage on the Mac as it loads super fast with only a search window.

Google isn’t selling your data

A common misconception with Google (and Facebook) is that they collect all of this information and then “sell” it to other companies. The truth is your data is so valuable that they want to be the only ones that have it. They sell access to your data by letting companies advertise to use in a targeted way based on the data Google and Facebook knows about you. For some people, that’s a fair trade. They love Facebook and Google’s services enough that they’re willing to trade that data for access to free services.

I was willing to do that for a long time, but today, I am not. I’ve personally been off of Facebook since 2009 and Instagram from 2016. I use iCloud for my personal email. I’ve started using ‘Sign in with Apple’ whenever possible when signing up for new services. When I am on Wi-Fi networks that I don’t manage, I use a VPN service to protect my privacy. I want to use services that aren’t interesting in knowing who I am in order to better target me with ads.

Should Apple buy DuckDuckGo?

I’ve seen this comment floated around the tech community for years, and while it’s an excellent idea, I don’t think it’s needed. DuckDuckGo’s mission aligns nicely with Apple’s mission of protecting personal privacy. Apple should be making more aggressive moves to teach its users about your search history, though.

Apple’s problem is they make billions each year from Google from being the default search provider. I don’t think Apple should change the default, not for privacy reasons, but from a user experience reason. If Apple set DDG as the default search provider in iOS 15, it would create chaos for Apple Support as people would be confused about what was happening. What Apple should do is when Safari is launched for the first time, asking users which search engine they want to use. Under the icon for DDG, there should be a mention that they don’t track you, store identifiable information, etc. Doing this would undoubtedly cause many people to switch, but they would be choosing to change so they’d understand the experience.

Wrap up on DuckDuckGo as my default search

I didn’t think to write this article until recently as I’ve become so used to having DuckDuckGo as my provider that it stopped seeming different. In my head, I replaced one search engine for another. In reality, I traded a search engine that wants to know more about me to one that actively works to avoid knowing anything about me.

The older I get, the more I turn into Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec in terms of privacy. The right to privacy is something I place more importance on as the years go by. The more we rely on technology to power our lives, the easier it is for companies to think they have the right to know as much about us as possible. Changing your default search engine to DuckDuckGo is an easy first step to taking back your privacy. Give it a shot for 30 days to see how easy is it to take back a small part of your privacy.

 [Source: This article was published in 9to5mac.com By Bradley Chambers - Uploaded by the Association Member: Eric Beaudoin]
Categorized in Search Engine

Privacy-first search engine DuckDuckGo's year was productive in 2020. The search engine managed to increase daily search queries significantly in 2020 and 2021 is already looking to become another record year as the search engine broke the 100 million search queries mark on a single day for the first time on January 11, 2021.

Looking back at 2019, the search engine recorded over 15 billion search queries in that year. In 2020, the number of queries rose to more than 23 billion search queries. These two years alone make up the queries for more than one-third of the company's entire existence, and the company was founded in 2008. In 2015 for example, DuckDuckGo managed to cross the 12 million queries per day mark for the first time.

In 2020, DuckDuckGo's daily average searches increased by 62%.

DuckDuckGo received more than 100 million search queries in January 2021 for the first time. The first week of the year saw growth from less than 80 million queries to stable mid-80 million queries, and the past week saw that number jump to mid-90 million queries, with the record-breaking day on Monday last week.

Queries have gone down under 100 million again in the past days -- DuckDuckGo does not display data for the past couple of days -- and it is possible that numbers will remain under 100 million for a time.

One of the search engine's main focuses is privacy. It promises that searches are anonymous and that no records of user activity are kept; major search engines like Google track users to increase money from advertising.

DuckDuckGo does benefit whenever privacy is discussed in the news, and it is quite possible that the Facebook-WhatsApp data-sharing change was the main driver for the rise in the search engine's number of queries.

DuckDuckGo's search market share has risen to 1.94% in the United States according to Statcounter. Google is still leading with 89.19% of all searches, followed by Bing and Yahoo following respectively with 5.86% and 2.64% of all searches.

Statcounter data is not 100% accurate as it is based on tracking code that is installed on over 2 million sites globally.

Closing Words

DuckDuckGo's traffic is rising year over year, and there does not seem to be an end in sight. If the trend continues, it could eventually surpass Yahoo and then Bing in the United States to become the second most used search engine in the country.

Privacy concerns and scandals will happen in 2020 -- they have happened every year -- and each will contribute its share to the continued rise of DuckDuckGo's market share.

Now You: do you use DuckDuckGo? What is your take on this development? (via Bleeping Computer)

[Source: This article was published in ghacks.net By Martin Brinkmann - Uploaded by the Association Member: David J. Redcliff]
Categorized in Search Engine

All web browsers include a default search engine and a set of search engines that is supported by default. You search when you type anything in the address bar that is not an address and will always use the default search engine for that.

Browsers include options to change the default search engine so that another one is used whenever you type in the address bar, but what if you want to use different search engines based on your queries? You could open the homepages of non-default search engines and start searches from there, but there is an easier option, and it is included in all Chromium-based web browsers including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi, Opera, or Brave.

All of these browsers support the ancient keywords feature. Basically, what it does is associate a shortcut with a search engine URL to run searches using that shortcut.

Some browsers map single-letter shortcuts to search engines e.g. Vivaldi does that.  Using Vivaldi, you can use the sequence B-Key, then Tab-key, to run searches using Bing, or D-Key then Tab-key, to use DuckDuckGo.

Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Brave support keywords as well, but the companies have set the keywords to the domain name. That's a nuisance, as you need to type Bing.com then Tab-key to run a search from Bing, or ecosia.org then Tab-key to use that search engine.

chrome keywords search

Users who would like to make use of the keywords feature in Chromium-based browsers may run into the following two primary issues:

  1. How to add search engines that are not integrated with the web browser by default.
  2. How to make sure that "sane" keywords are linked to search engines to speed up the process.

Adding search engines to Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers

chrome search engines

Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers pick up search engines automatically. The best option is to visit the search engine's homepage, e.g. Startpage, and run a single search. It should be added to the browser's selection of search engines automatically at that point.

Load chrome://settings/search engines (note that the address may be different depending on the browser) to verify that the search engine is available. You may use the search on the page to find a search engine quickly if lots are listed on the page.

To get to the page manually, select Menu > Settings > Manage Search Engines (or Search Engines).

Customizing keyword shortcuts for search engines

edit-search-engine-chrome.png

The browser lists the keywords on the search engine management page. You change them with a click on the three dots that are displayed at the rightmost location of the search engine's line on the page and selecting "Edit" from the menu that opens.

change-keyword.png

You may then change the keyword (and other parameters). The new keyword is displayed directly in the listing, and you may use it directly in the address bar without a restart.

Just type the new keyword followed by a tap on the Tab-key, a search term, and Enter-key to run a search using the associated search engine.

Now You: do you use keywords in your browser? (via Deskmodder)

 [Source: This article was published in ghacks.net By Martin Brinkmann - Uploaded by the Association Member: Issac Avila] 
Categorized in Search Engine

The European Union and the United States want to introduce tighter rules for tech giants like Google. Search engine rivals are ready to step up as efforts are made to create a fairer competitive environment.

Is it right that one company should dominate the internet the way Google does? One person who feels things should be different is Gabriel Weinberg, the 41-year-old CEO of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that claims to protect the user's private sphere and not collect huge amounts of personal data like Google.

Under fair conditions, "Google's market share would immediately drop by 20 percentage points," Weinberg told DW. He says that his powerful competitor has, for example, making it unnecessarily difficult to use other search engines on Android smartphones. "In fact, it takes 15 different clicks to make DuckDuckGo the default on Android devices," he says.

Weinberg is of the view that everyone should be able to decide more easily which search engine they use. "We're asking to be on the same level playing field," he says, and not for any special concessions.

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Markus Beckedahl is an internet activist and journalist

For some time now, Weinberg has not been alone with his demands in the US. Politicians are coming over to his side. Criticism of the market power possessed by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple is no longer muted background noise, but rather a siren of protest. Several US states have sued Google and accused its parent company, Alphabet, of using unfair practices to defend its monopoly on online searches and advertising. Facebook is also facing litigation.

EU plans tough measures

While such legal action has been taken in a somewhat piecemeal fashion in the US, the European Union is planning large-scale measures that will revamp the digital world. The European Commission wants to ensure fair competition with a digital services law and a digital market law. Those who violate the intended legislation could face penalties of up to 6% of their annual global revenue.

Partly in view of the severe penalties, internet activist Markus Beckedahl is sure that "the biggest lobbying battle of the digital world" is about to start. Beckedahl has been observing the behavior of tech giants for nearly 20 years at netzpolitik.org. He says that after such a long period of lax regulation, authorities must now set up a regulatory framework that prevents the big corporations "from extending their power further from their dominant market position."

Asymmetries of power

According to the proposal by the European Commission, platforms will no longer be allowed to prioritize their own content and products over those of other providers. They will have to make their advertising and their recommendation algorithms more transparent so that is possible to trace what is shown to whom when. The EU is even considering breaking up corporations if they don't stick to the EU rules.

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The market share of total US digital ad spending

One effective weapon could also be so-called interoperability. This means that big corporations would have to open up their systems. For example, a WhatsApp message could also be sent to Telegram. "This could lead to more competition on the messenger service market," Beckedahl told DW.

Researchers and authorities are also to be given better access to data from Amazon, Google, and Co. "At the moment, there is a huge asymmetry of power. Platforms have all this data; their research departments can access it in real-time, while regulatory authorities stand there helplessly," Beckedahl said.

But the Commission's initiative is coming almost too late. In addition to commanding the search engine market, Google is also the market leader for user-generated videos via YouTube. Amazon is building up its dominance in the cloud sector (AWS — Amazon Web Services) alongside its mail-order business. And Facebook is dominating social networks with its own platform and Instagram, as well as the messenger market with WhatsApp.

Gabriel Weinberg from DuckDuckGo is also watching developments in Europe. His company is one of the founding members of Global Privacy Control, an alliance that works on protecting private data. He has been working on his search engine for almost 13 years and now has 150 people working with him.

He feels the collection of personal data is "at the center of most of the things that are wrong with the internet." Although his search engine also earns money with advertising, the adverts that are shown are based on the search context, not the user profile as with Google, he says. Weinberg believes that this also improves the quality of the search results and that his company wants all results to be the same everywhere in the world and not to be dependent on personal user data.

Weinberg says that his search engine currently receives 2 billion requests per month and is growing fast, but the market share for DuckDuckGo searches is still minuscule compared with its competitors. DuckDuckGo's market share could be more like 10% if it were made easier to make it the default on devices, he says.

From Europe to the US?

Markus Beckedahl from netzpolitik.org says that the US government is still not interested in taking tough action on its tech giants. "Those are the companies they use to dominate the world," he says. However, he feels that stricter regulation in the EU could become a model and increase the calls for comparable measures in the US. He cites the example of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. "Europe set digital standards here," he says.

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DuckDuckGo's CEO says if his company were to be taken over, it wouldn't be by Google

But he believes that regulation alone will not automatically improve everything — and that consumer action is necessary. "With every click, with every search request, Google gets better," he says.

Weinberg hopes that competition will become fairer. He is already seeing interest in greater protection for the private sphere. And there have even been occasional rumors of takeover bids for his search engine. He declines to comment on them. But he does say that if a takeover did occur, it would certainly not be by Google.

 [Source: This article was published in dw.com By Barry McMahon - Uploaded by the Association Member: Clara Johnson]
Categorized in Search Engine

DuckDuckGo’s Daniel Davis discusses the privacy-focused search engine’s future in the market

INTERVIEW DuckDuckGo’s journey started as an idea in the mind of Gabriel Weinberg, who found poor search results and high levels of spam a daily annoyance when he was browsing the web.

The first iterations of the DuckDuckGo search engine, launched in 2008, focused on offering improved search results – taking on the likes of Google and Yahoo! – but as time went on, the company’s attention pivoted to emerging security and privacy challenges.

There is money to be made in online advertising, and this ecosystem is the lifeblood of everything from media outlets to search engines and social media platforms.

This revenue stream becomes its most lucrative when data is used to create user profiles, resulting in personalized ad targeting.

Rather than charge users for an online service, some would argue that collecting data on users – such as their search queries, web page visits, and ‘likes’ on social media – is a fair trade.

For DuckDuckGo, however, the company believes that a right to privacy should trump marketing interests.

b7f8 article ddg search The DuckDuckGo homepage has become a familiar sight

Speaking to The Daily Swig, Daniel Davis, DuckDuckGo’s communications manager, said that the company has taken a different approach and “we believe getting privacy online should be simple and accessible to everyone, period”.

“We share our most intimate information with search engines – financial, medical, [and more] – and that information deserves to be private and not used for profiling or data targeting,” Davis commented.

No intrusion

DuckDuckGo does not collect user data, search queries, or purchase histories, and does not use or permit trackers – the most common approach employed by organizations to compile user profiles – so searches are kept private.

But how does such a company make money? Adverts are displayed on search engine results, but rather than targeting ads at users, DuckDuckGo’s advertising is based on the search results being viewed.

Today, DuckDuckGo has expanded beyond a simple search engine and now offers a mobile browser app, the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser on Android and iOS, and a desktop extension for Google Chrome.

ddgo body text

DuckDuckGo’s Daniel Davis says user privacy should trump an organization’s marketing interests

As the company does not track visitors, user base estimates are difficult. However, Davis says that within the course of a year, the number of searches a day has increased from roughly 30 million to 80 million – suggesting that the firm’s privacy message is catching on.

The current record, at the time of writing, is almost 86 million queries in a single day.

“Since we don’t track our users, we don't know the same things about them that other companies do, including how many users we have!,” the executive said. “However, we know many of them are increasingly discovering the importance of protecting their privacy.”

Privacy improvements

No company achieves its goals 100% of the time, however. Back in July, Weinberg was roused out of bed one Thursday morning to deal with a security storm online, in which users were questioning a favicon-fetching “design flaw” in DuckDuckGo’s domain that could impact their privacy.

At the time, the DuckDuckGo founder told us that different favicon fetching methods offered “basically a similar amount” of privacy, but the organization chose to change its method due to community feedback.

DuckDuckGo’s slogan is “Privacy Simplified”, and for Weinberg, this means users should not have to understand complex security concepts in order to feel safe.

This approach appears to be working. Over 2020, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, DuckDuckGo is growing, with searches increasing by roughly 44% year-over-year.

“This makes us the number two search engine in several countries include the US, Canada, UK, and Australia,” Davis noted. “In addition, our mobile app is now the most downloaded browser on Android and second most downloaded browser on iOS.”

Searching for balance

Google still holds the lion’s share of the global search engine market, but the growth is grounds for optimism – and according to DuckDuckGo, the tech giant’s iron grip needs to be loosened.

In October, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) accused Google of illegally holding a monopoly in the search engine and advertising market. Google was accused of using tactics including enforcing agreements that excluded rivals from fairly competing with it, alleged actions designed to maintain its pre-eminent position in the market.

While Google denies these claims, the company, described by the DoJ as a “gateway to the internet”, also maintains a dominant position in the browser market through Chrome, a business Davis says Google continues to “exploit” in conjunction with its search monopoly, thereby restricting user choice – and impacting privacy.

ddgo hq 2

DuckDuckGo’s headquarters in Paoli, Pennsylvania

“This anti-competitive behavior enables them to collect data at an unprecedented scale and use that to behaviorally target users,” Davis says.

“Even people not directly using Google products are targeted due to the proliferation of Google-hosted trackers found on around 75% of websites. Not only does this hurt competition and innovation, but the behavioral profiles that result are also used in ways that have a negative impact on society and democracy.”

When it comes to the browser security landscape, Davis said there is work to be done by major browser providers, including Google.

Privacy improvements are being made over time, but according to the executive, these are “not enough to properly block the pervasive tracking that people have grown tired of”.

Davis mentioned tracker-blocking technology implemented in the DuckDuckGo browser as an example, which has been released to the open-source community.

“People deserve a private alternative to the products and services they use,” he added. “They deserve simple tools that empower them to take back their privacy, without any trade-offs.”

Privacy beyond search

Davis said there is a growing demand for privacy-focused online products and services, and the company has been “delighted” with the response to the DuckDuckGo mobile browser, launched three years ago.

Recent improvements include adding route planning to private maps, allowing iOS users to set their default browser to DuckDuckGo, and becoming a founding member of a new privacy standard, Global Privacy Control (GPC).

There is “nothing to announce” when it comes to a fully-fledged DuckDuckGo desktop browser at present, but given the vendor’s current trajectory, this kind of offering could be a natural fit, eventually, within DuckDuckGo’s portfolio.

“We’re always looking to introduce new privacy protection products and features where people don't have the protection they deserve,” Davis said. “So next year, you'll see us rolling out new simple services that protect people's privacy in other places outside of search and browsing the web.”

[Source: This article was published in portswigger.net By Charlie Osborne - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jeremy Frink]
Categorized in Internet Privacy

Ecosia is a search engine that promotes privacy first and plants trees around the world, and with Mondays updates, it is now available as a default search engine setting on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Ecosia uses their income from search ads to fund planting trees around the world in harsh environments. The search engine doesn't track users, encrypts searches, and anonymizes data within a week of it being created.

The ad revenue generated from Apple users alone have planted over seven million trees in 2020, and now you can do more by making it the default search engine. The website shows over 115 million trees have been planted as a result of search revenue so far.

Users can customize what data is gathered by using the Safari browser extension or altering settings on the website, which creates a cookie to store those settings. Ecosia uses keyword searches rather than building user-data profiles and hyper-targeting. The company also makes its earnings reports public to show exactly where finances are being distributed.

Browsers that can be set to default in Safari settings:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Ecosia

When a default search engine is set, it will replace Google everywhere web search occurs on the device within the OS except when using Siri. Spotlight search will pull data from everywhere on the device or use the default search engine to surface web results. When asking Siri for information it will search Google using a random identifier so Google doesn't know its you.

Set Ecosia as your default browser on iOS and iPadOS by navigating to Settings, scroll to Safari, and select Search Engine. On macOS set the default search engine from Safari settings.

Users who wish to set Ecosia as their default must update to iOS 14.3, iPadOS 14.3 or macOS 11.1 to do so.

Even as Apple adds competitors to Google to its platform, it appears as if Apple itself is preparing an in-house search engine. While web crawlers used by Apple could be related to bolstering Siri results, it could also indicate a larger project for Apple's search engine.

[Source: This article was published in appleinsider.com By Wesley Hilliard - Uploaded by the Association Member: Barbara larson]

Categorized in Search Engine

The new standard, called Global Privacy Control, will let you activate a browser setting to keep your data from being sold.

A group of tech companies, publishers, and activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, and DuckDuckGo are backing a new standard to let internet users set their privacy settings for the entire web.

“Before today, if you want to exercise your privacy rights, you have to go from website to website and change all your settings,” says Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine.

That new standard, called Global Privacy Control, lets users set a single setting in their browsers or through browser extensions telling each website that they visit not to sell or share their data. It’s already backed by some publishers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times, as well as companies including Automattic, which operates blogging platforms wordpress.com and Tumblr.

Advocates believe that under a provision of the California Consumer Privacy Act, activating the setting should send a legally binding request that website operators not sell their data. The setting may also be enforceable under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, and the backers of the standard are planning to communicate with European privacy regulators about the details of how that would work, says Peter Dolanjski, director of product at DuckDuckGo. At the moment, the official specification of the standard specifies that it’s in an experimental stage and “currently not intended to convey legally binding requests,” but that’s expected to change as legal authorities and industry groups have time to react to the standard and put it into place across the web, Dolanjski says.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time for them to make the modifications and all that,” he says.

If it becomes widely accepted and helps prevent website operators and companies from building cross-site profiles of their users, the new standard could help bring an element of privacy back to the web, advocates say. Global Privacy Control could not only help internet users avoid ads that seem to follow them across the web but also potentially limit some of the other negative aspects of today’s internet experience, from filter bubbles and misinformation to discrimination based on people’s behavior and perceived demographics, says Weinberg.

“It’s all traced back to the same behavioral data profiles,” he says.

While the exact details may vary based on future regulations, the standard was designed to allow some sharing of data with service providers such as analytics companies that track web visits for individual sites—but not for building aggregate profiles of how people behave across sites. Those profiles are used by search engines, social media companies, and ad networks to discern people’s interests and demographics and target them with marketing accordingly. While that can result in people seeing more relevant ads on the internet, it’s also been a way for propagandists and fraudsters to find people they believe are vulnerable to receiving particular types of misinformation, from misleading election information to work-from-home scams.

The new setting can be activated through the configuration menu of DuckDuckGo’s browser extensions and is expected to be present in future versions of Mozilla’s Firefox browser as well as other browsers and privacy-focused extensions. Users wanting to test if the setting is activated can visit the Global Privacy Control website, which has a banner indicating whether the setting is enabled.

The concept is similar to Do Not Track, a similar feature introduced in web browsers about a decade ago but never widely observed by website operators. The difference, Weinberg says, is that Do Not Track never really had any legal teeth behind it, while Global Privacy Control is expected to be backed by California authorities under the state privacy law. It’s unclear whether people still using Do Not Track in their browsers would have the same result. Companies could argue that the setting, which some browsers turned on by default and which predates the California law, wasn’t necessarily turned on with the intention of giving notice not to sell data under the law, he says.

Even if that law only covers California residents, the builders of the standard hope that as more jurisdictions put such rules into place, website operators will choose to observe Global Privacy Control user intentions even in the potentially shrinking number of places where they’re not legally bound to do so.

“We hope that this is just a stepping stone to federal legislation,” says Weinberg.

[Source: This article was published in fastcompany.com By Steven Melendez - Uploaded by the Association Member: Wushe Zhiyang]

Categorized in Internet Privacy
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