The past several months have seen Google battling antitrust and privacy lawsuits. At the end of last year, several U.S. states hit Google with three big lawsuits, and just a few weeks ago, Google became embroiled in yet another scandal – this time, being accused of tracking users browsing in Incognito mode.
With Google under continued scrutiny, a slew of new privacy-first search engines is in the works. Brave is set to be the first privacy-focused alternative to Google Search that offers both a search engine and browser that work on desktop and mobile devices. Neeva, on the other hand, will be a subscription-based model (and its founders are ex-Google employees, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on them). Then there’s Ecosia, OneSearch, Vivaldi and StartPage – smaller competitors on a slow but steady rise.
But DuckDuckGo is the O.G., the head honcho: the leader in privacy-focused search and a longtime critic of Google. Its current success – it recently surpassed Bing to become the no. 2 mobile search engine in the U.S., and it also smashed the milestone of 100 million daily searches – is proof that users do want their data protected and are willing to seek out alternatives.
Google knows this. And one way they’re trying to prove they’re turning over a new leaf is through the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), an alternative to third-party cookies that launched its first trial a couple of weeks ago. Google also launched a new website, The Privacy Sandbox, where it explains its new privacy-focused initiatives in detail.
But true to form, DuckDuckGo is having none of it. It has already announced plans to block FLoC in the DuckDuckGo search engine and Chrome extension, along with another scathing message:
“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. We’re nevertheless committed and will continue to do our part to deliver on our vision of raising the standard of trust online.”
The DuckDuckGo response should come as no surprise because they haven’t exactly made their disdain for Google a secret. DuckDuckGo takes issue with any form of user tracking, even when it’s less invasive (FLoC targets groups rather than individuals), and highlights the concern that Chrome users don’t have the ability to opt out.
While Google’s goal is to see FLoC gain momentum and replace third-party cookies on a large scale, other privacy-first search engines want to stop it in its tracks. And DuckDuckGo isn’t fighting this David-and-Goliath battle alone – Brave and Vivaldi have both released similar statements, saying they won’t support the initiative. FLoC is Google’s first foray into privacy-focused search, but if this is how other privacy pundits choose to respond, it’s not exactly off to the best start.
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