Meeting DuckDuckGo’s Gabriel WeinbergArticles . Blog
Hi everyone. You may have heard that
in our latest update to Vivaldi we launched a new collaboration
with DuckDuckGo, so we thought we’d sit down with their founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg
to find out a bit more about his thoughts around privacy, the browser,
what people can do to protect their privacy, and this new collaboration we’ve got,
so with that welcome Gabriel, great to have you. Thanks for having me. To start off, can you tell us why it’s important
to protect your privacy these days? So many reasons.
I can give you a few though. First of all online, you know, there’s people trying to manipulate you
into buying things and taking your information and selling it, and there’s
just no reason why that needs to occur. By protecting your privacy online,
you can both protect yourself from these attempts
of being manipulated, but also literally stop other people from profiting off of your information. Then a second reason,
which I find particularly compelling, with which we can get into search, is that online there’s all these algorithms
that control what you see, search results, videos you watch next, etc.
If you don’t protect your privacy, then you’re feeding this data
to these algorithms which can become biased, and then they’ll show you things that
they think you’re more likely to click on, but they often get this wrong
and they also put you in a kind of a bubble by showing you more things
that you agree with and less opposing viewpoints. I can go on and on, but those are good reasons
to start with the conversation. Definitely. Getting siloed
is a really interesting conversation in itself. Why do you think it’s important
to choose the right search engine specifically. I guess there’s some overlap
with what you just mentioned. With regards to that algorithmic bias the search context is really
the most pernicious because you’re going to your search engine
looking for answers that you think are objective. You’re trying to get results, but in reality, if you choose a tracking search engine that’s biasing the result towards your search history,
you’re not getting results that are objective. You’re getting ones
that are tailored to you in a way that reinforces your political beliefs
and puts you in that bubble, so that’s one big reason. The second reason is you
share your most intimate secrets with your search engine without
thinking, financial, medical, personal problems, and you want to keep
those private but when you’re searching with an on-tracking search engine like
Google they’re recording every search you make for all time and unfortunately
that stuff could leak out. So Google, for example, has over a hundred thousand user data requests every year where anyone with a valid court order, criminal
or civil, can request that search history. Most people are not thinking about that.
When they think about it for a minute, they’re like
“I don’t really want that private information being stored forever”. Sure, definitely.
That brings us to DuckDuckGo, your outfit. Can you tell us about the mission of DuckDuckGo
and what you guys are all about? We’re a search engine obviously, so we’re talking about search engines,
that doesn’t track you and we’ve been doing that for about ten years
but we have a broader vision of raising the standard of trust online.
We’re doing that in a number of ways. One is just education. We’re out there
trying to help people protect their privacy, not just search. Two, we recently
launched brother extensions and apps that help protect you beyond the search
engine so when you go around the web there’s all these hidden trackers
that are out there collecting your personal information and our
apps and extensions block those trackers. So obviously you’re a little
familiar with Vivaldi and the browser? Yes, I am. What did you think about the
match of DuckDuckGo and Vivaldi, and how do you see them playing together? I think it’s a great match. Vivaldi puts privacy first
and its users as a primary feature. Any company organization that does that
has a shared vision with DuckDuckGo. Then in particular, Vivaldi is,
and I don’t know how you characterize it, but I characterize it as “a lot of ability
to customize and really make the most out of your browser experience”.
I think that is a good fit for DuckDuckGo because we also have a lot of
customization. You can change all sorts of settings and fit the experience to your needs. Putting the user in control of how
the software works for them, it’s something we have in common for sure.
Specifically, in the browser arena when someone’s browsing what is
the benefit of using a private window? I am one of those people
that think you might want to use a private window all the time.
When you’re online you’re leaking all this information to third
parties, and also saving it to your computer. Generally, you want to minimize information. The only downside
to using private window all the time is repeated logins and things like that
but you can get around that with a nice extension of some kind
that remembers your passwords. You’ll find me navigating to private window
most of the time. I’m sure. It’s getting more and more common
to take that route Yeah, especially on mobile. Speaking of which,
I was reading the DuckDuckGo survey on privacy that you did last year,
really interesting to see the trends on how people are taking action to protect
their privacy and that becoming more and more common, so obviously
people are interested in this side of things. How would you say people should first
start to reclaim their privacy? You’re totally right.
It’s a total mainstream interest and need at this point and luckily there’s more
and more tools to do this, so what’s great about private windows is that they are easy to
use, the downside is people don’t necessarily understand fully what’s
going on with some of these things. So the first piece of advice
we usually give is that a little education is useful, and you’re putting out stuff,
we’re putting out stuff on spreadprivacy.com, just the basics of what’s going on
on the internet could always help. Then secondly, to reclaim
your privacy online I think you want to move away from Google and Facebook
mainly because they’re tracking you the most, way more than all other companies, and secondly, you want to use tools that
put you in control over your data and so Vivaldi is a good example,
DuckDuckGo is a good example. Getting down to the nitty gritty details,
you want to switch away to private alternatives for all those Google and
Facebook services, and then on those alternatives you want to use
the private options. Whether it be private window or install the DuckDuckGo app and
extension which blocks all those hidden trackers. I was gonna ask
specifically about Google and Facebook. – Good segue then.
– You’ve been pretty vocal about that so can you tell us a little bit about why you think
people should drop these services. One case cuts across both
which is that when you surf around the web there are these hidden
trackers soaking up your browsing history and anything you type in. People generally realize that and want to install
a tracker blocker like DuckDuckGo. What they don’t realize is that it’s mostly
Google and Facebook doing the hidden tracking. Google is now on 76% of websites lurking
behind the scenes, tracking you. Facebook’s on 25% and it falls off a
lot from there and the reason is because they run the two biggest advertising
networks in the world, and they’re enabling all this kind of hyper
targeting that you’re seeing with the ads following you around the internet,
and so they are kind of in a category of their own about tracking.
In addition you gotta think of their own sites, so when people are using Google search which has all the problems we talked about before,
like biasing you, and the same with YouTube, then Facebook has a similar kind of
algorithmic newsfeed bias which has also been shown to be not healthy to use all time. For all those reasons I suggest
people to get off of Google at Facebook. And it’s possible. Some people think it’s not possible
but I can tell you that is possible. I take it you’re a proponent of that. Living Google-free, Facebook-free right? Yes, yes exactly. You’re talking to someone
who’s Google and Facebook-free. Still on the browser side,
do you have any thoughts about browser choice in relation to privacy?
Both as it is now and in future as well.
Like trends in browsers and privacy, that side of things? Absolutely.
The bad trend has been Chrome taking over and having a majority of browser
share. It’s largely because Google’s been using their monopoly power to push
Chrome installs everywhere you turn. Every trip you go on Google you’ll get
a Chrome install and that’s not a good trend for the industry.
It’s another vertical integration of Google and Chrome tracks you more than
other browsers. So in the whole realm of getting off of Google you want
to switch off for Chrome to another browser. And then in addition
browsing is a central component of your internet experience and just like
searches you want something that is gonna put you more in control
of the experience and your data, so it’s a central component. Yes, definitely.
What do you think of some of the trends that are coming out like
the features that people are integrating into the browsers to give more control
around the privacy side of things? Yeah, I think it’s great.
We’ve been pushing and the integration we’re launching today with Vivaldi
is right in that direction. People are really clamoring for more
control over their data so giving them more private features
to let them do that is answering what people want
which is the right thing to do. Great. That’s a good note
to finish up on, so thanks again for taking the time, Gabriel, to have a chat about
this new release and particularly looking forward to seeing it in action. Me too, it’s very exciting. – Bye for now, Gabriel.
– Sure, thanks.
Written by Michelle Gutierrez
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