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DuckDuckGo presses the case for true ‘one-click’ search competition on Android – TechCrunch

When antitrust accusations close in on Google, the tech giant loves to fire back a riposte that competition is just “one click away“. It’s a disingenuous retort from an online advertising behemoth whose power and profits stem from its expertise in capturing markets by manipulating and monopolizing Internet users’ attention. Indeed, the entire brand is arguably a dark pattern.

Behold the child-like colors! The friendly babble of syllables! The tempting freebies! The tall talk of missions and moonshots! And tucked quietly beneath that Googley exterior: The adtech giant tracking Internet users en masse to sell their attention. The business model that makes money through mass surveillance and people profiling.

Google’s ‘other bets’ have always been PR pocket change besides its ads profit machine. The fun stuff is simply how Google primes its people data pump.

So what if Google’s infamous ‘one-click competition’ claim was to actually be made true in the arena of Android search engine choice? A market where Google’s activity is being closely monitored by EU competition regulators — after a 2018 antitrust decision.

Three years ago, the tech giant was hit with a $5BN penalty and an order to stop using Android (aka its freebie for mobile device makers) to lock in the dominance of its own-brand search engine (and other Google services) on mobile, where its operating system is massively dominant.

It adopted a so-called ‘choice screen’ on Android in the region — which prompts device users to pick a default search engine from a selection of options (Google auctions slots to rivals).

But the choice is more of a one-shot than a dynamic, ongoing possibility to switch the default for Android users — as they are only asked to choose their default choice on setting up a new device or after a factory reset.

“That means, for all practical purposes, if you want to change your default device search engine again easily, you can’t,” writes DuckDuckGo in its latest blog post pushing for reform of Google’s self-serving Android ‘remedy’.

DDG’s count takes 15+ clicks (not one) to switch the default search engine on an Android device at any other point (i.e., after the initial setup or factory reset). And it says it knows “from experience” that this over-15-clicks method “trips up almost everyone”.

“In other words, one-click competition becomes, in fact, ‘one factory reset away’,” it goes on. “The only reasons we can think of for setting up a preference menu this way are anti-competitive ones.”

The pro-privacy search engine has been banging the drum for months (if not years) at this point. Nor is it alone in complaining about Google’s remedy. And complaints aren’t limited to how hard it is to switch search engines at any other point after setup, either.

Notably, Google’s decision to opt for a ‘pay-to-play’ model by auctioning slots on the choice screen has been widely criticized — with multiple search rivals arguing that an auction isn’t fair and does not result in a level playing field for competition (Google’s own search engine always appears as a choice, of course, and it doesn’t have to pay anyone to appear).

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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