The discussions came to the forefront during a U.S. government antitrust trial against Google, where sealed transcripts were unveiled, showing the extent of the negotiations between Apple and DuckDuckGo. The CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, testified, shedding light on nearly 20 meetings and phone calls with Apple executives across 2018 and 2019, exploring the possibility of integrating DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for Safari’s Private Browsing mode.
However, the transition did not materialize, with a significant concern being DuckDuckGo’s reliance on Bing for its search data, implying a potential compromise on user privacy—a core value for Apple. John Giannandrea, who assumed the role of Head of Search at Apple in 2018, was skeptical about DuckDuckGo’s privacy marketing, leading to a halt in the progression towards the switch. The trial underscored Google’s dominance in the search engine realm, as highlighted by a lucrative agreement between Apple and Google, making Google the default search engine across various Apple devices.
The information emanating from this trial provides a rare glimpse into the tech giants’ strategic considerations concerning user privacy and market competition. The deliberation to switch to DuckDuckGo, known for its privacy-centric approach, reflects Apple’s ongoing efforts to bolster user privacy across its ecosystem. Nonetheless, the skepticism surrounding DuckDuckGo’s privacy practices, given its association with Bing, played a crucial part in Apple’s decision to stick with Google.