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Business News/ Technology / News/  Why did Google not add privacy-focused features to its search engine? Senior Alphabet executive explains
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Why did Google not add privacy-focused features to its search engine? Senior Alphabet executive explains

Google's head of search recommended changes to Google Search in response to privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, but the suggestions were rejected.

FILE - The Google sign hands over an entrance to the company's new building, Sept. 6, 2023, in New York. Search giant Google has agreed to a $93 million settlement with the state of California on Thursday, Sept. 14, over the its location-privacy practices. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan, File) (AP)Premium
FILE - The Google sign hands over an entrance to the company's new building, Sept. 6, 2023, in New York. Search giant Google has agreed to a $93 million settlement with the state of California on Thursday, Sept. 14, over the its location-privacy practices. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan, File) (AP)

Google was toying with the idea of adding more privacy-focused features to its search engine that would not track the sites visited by its users, a senior Alphabet executive revealed at the antitrust trial against the company.

It was 2019 and tech companies like Google were on the back foot following the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed that the personal data of around 87 million Facebook users was secretly scraped and mined for voter insights, Bloomberg reported.

Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, while testifying at Google's antitrust trial, revealed that the search giant refused to add privacy-focused features because an Incognito Google could hurt the company's advertising revenue.

Raghavan was grilled by Justice Department lawyer Joshua Hafenbrack about the company's reasons for rejecting the novel proposal. He asked the Google executive, “One of the concerns was if Google adopted that proposal, users would pick it and Google would lose billions of dollars in revenue, correct?"

Raghavan replied, "That was only one of the concerns." He added that the other was the difficulty of explaining to users the difference between incognito search and incognito mode in the Chrome browser.

What were the recommended changes to Google Search? 

Google's head of search, Benedict Gomes, had advocated making a number of changes to Google Search in response to privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, including not keeping information about users' search history and location.

In an email exchange, Gomes called privacy a "sensitive search spot" and an "important positioning point that is a potential threat".

But Gomes' suggestions were rejected by Raghavan, who was running the company's search advertising business at the time.

Raghavan in response to an email wrote, “I agree that there’s something worth exploring in this space of private search. But the working teams have to do MUCH more careful work before wasting our valuable time. I want to see evidence that there’s a real impact on Google users, attributable to this factor."

 

 

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Published: 30 Oct 2023, 08:19 AM IST
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