DuckDuckGo calls on regulators to help consumers as Google announces pay-to-play default search engine scheme


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After being slapped with a massive $5 billion fine for antitrust violations, tech giant Google announced a new feature for selecting the default search provider while setting up a new Android device such as a phone or a tablet. Google said that it would provide users with four options out of which they’d have to pick one to fix their default search engine.

Google had to introduce this new feature as a result of the European Commission’s decision taken in July 2018 concerning Android devices. While this new course of action makes it seem like the tech giant is giving consumers a real choice and an option to choose from, it is to be noted that the options are determined through a sealed-bid auction method.

Once this system is enforced, users will be given four options to choose from. Out of those four, three options are awarded to the top three bidders. In such a scenario, the other search engines will inevitably end up paying a huge sum for being on that list.

“In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. Each country will have a minimum bid threshold. The three highest bidders that meet or exceed the bid threshold for a given country will appear in the choice screen for that country,” read an excerpt from the company’s blog post announcement.

As of now, Google hasn’t specified any minimum threshold bid whatsoever; however, the bidders as well as the minimum bid is going to be kept private.

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Initially, the tech giant argued that it needed the search revenue generated from the Android devices as compensation for the time and effort spent to develop the Android platform.

But the European Commission rejected Google’s plea stating that the company earns billions of dollars through PlayStore and that it doesn’t need to depend solely on the search preference in Android devices anymore.

With regards to Google’s latest announcement, Duck Duck Go’s CEO founder Gabriel Weinberg expressed that the new system introduced by Google “will not meaningfully deliver consumer choice.”

“A pay-to-play auction with only 4 slots means consumers won't get all the choices they deserve, and Google will profit at the expense of the competition. We encourage regulators to work directly with Google, us, and others to ensure the best system for consumers,” tweeted Weinberg.

Search companies are asked to apply and submit bids by September 13; the results shall be declared by 31 October.

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Naga Pramod

Naga Pramod is a computer science major and tech news reporter with a passion for cyber security, networking, and data science. [email protected]