DuckDuckGo founder says privacy needs to be as simple as a single button press

(Image credit: DuckDuckGo)

The success of the quest to establish a more private web will depend upon the ability to create a new path of least resistance for users, the founder of search engine DuckDuckGo has said.

In an exclusive interview with TechRadar Pro, Gabriel Weinberg said that the audience for privacy-preserving products will only reach a critical mass once it becomes simpler for people to make the switch.

“Most people currently say they care about privacy, but only half actually take action. We think this figure will continue to grow as consumers understand more and more about privacy harms,” he told us.

“However, bringing web users from one group to the other will also be about helping people appreciate there’s something they can do about these problems. We’re trying to be the easy button for privacy.”

Building a more private web

Since the early 2010s, a new breed of organization has emerged that aims to equip people with the tools to defend against the predatory tracking technologies that underpin the advertising models of companies like Google and Facebook. DuckDuckGo is one such company, and so are Proton, Brave and many others.

However, the opportunity for companies like these to make up ground on Google and others is limited by the financial firepower of the incumbents, as well as their dominance across multiple sectors. The problem is that default is king, because many users will never bother to mess with their settings.

In the search market, Google is estimated to pay many billions of dollars every year to guarantee its spot as the default search engine across web browsers such as Safari and Firefox.

Meanwhile, Google’s own browser is far and away the largest on the market, which means the majority of internet users will make searches via Google by default. And Google’s ownership of Android means it can build its products into the heart of most of the world’s smartphones and tablets too.

To offset the power of the default, Weinberg says it needs to be much simpler for users to make a wholesale switch to different service providers across a number categories, including browser and search.

“On Android right now, it takes fifteen-plus clicks to change the default search engine, but we really think that should be one click,” he told us. “If this kind of system were in place, we could be five or ten times bigger today.”

“It’s very important to open up these kinds of industries. The answer to this problem is a regulatory one, so we’re working with bodies across the world to make this happen.”

Our full interview with Gabriel Weinberg will be published in the coming days.

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Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.