DuckDuckGo is updating its mobile apps and desktop extensions to meet the standards of a new effort called Global Privacy Control (GPC).
GPC is a setting for browsers and devices that signals a preference for privacy to all visited websites. The GPC setting is now turned on by default in DuckDuckGo’s apps and extensions.
DuckDuckGo is a founding member of the GPC standards effort. It makes sense the company would put its full support behind this new setting.
DuckDuckGo has always been an advocate for privacy on the web. What makes GPC different is it adds a layer of legal protection against websites selling user data.
From DuckDuckGo’s announcement:
“While we already block most tracking while browsing, we believe GPC will ultimately provide additional legal protection in certain jurisdictions for situations where websites might otherwise sell or share your data with other companies that may profit or benefit from it (such as selling data you give them to advertisers or data brokers after your visit).”
With the GPC setting turned on, DuckDuckGo says users are invoking their opt-out rights under laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“That means if you download the latest version of the DuckDuckGo app or extension and visit The New York Times from certain regions including California, Europe, Brazil, UAE, and Bermuda, you will have automatically invoked these opt-out rights, and they will take action accordingly.”
Enabling GPC by default is necessary, DuckDuckGo says, because legislation like the CCPA requires consumers to explicitly opt-out of the sale of their personal data.
By installing the new DuckDuckGo app or extension, and keeping the GPC setting turned on, users are meeting the conditions outlined in these privacy acts.
Several major publishers have committed to implementing GPC on their end, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Automattic (makers of WordPress).
This update is now available in the latest versions of DuckDuckGo’s mobile app and extensions. DuckDuckGo offers a mobile browser for iOS and Android, and an extension for Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and Microsoft Edge (Safari is not supported at this time).
After installing the app or extension, you can test whether GPC is working by going to globalprivacycontrol.org and checking for the “GPC signal detected” message at the top of the screen.
The GPC setting can be turned on and off at any time. If there’s any disadvantage to having it turned on, at least from the user side, it’s not mentioned by DuckDuckGo.
There’s disadvantages on the publisher side, however, as GPC limits what websites are legally allowed to do with user data. This has the potential to impact publisher revenue to a degree when you consider DuckDuckGo is now the second biggest search engine on mobile in the US.
Currently DuckDuckGo and a handful of publishers support GPC. We’ll see over time how great an impact it has, as the support for GPC is minimal right now.