DuckDuckGo, the Paoli-based internet search engine, proposed federal legislation on Wednesday that would bar companies from tracking web users who opt out of having their data collected.
DuckDuckGo, a small but fierce Google rival, bills itself as a search engine that doesn’t store or share user data. In March, CEO Gabriel Weinberg told lawmakers in Congress that his business turns a profit on mere “contextual” advertising without collecting customer data.
- FTC orders broadband providers like Comcast to detail data collection practices
- 'I come to you from the future’: DuckDuckGo founder tells Congress how U.S. would win by limiting ‘invasive’ Google, Facebook tracking
- Google gave users different search results for gun control, immigration, DuckDuckGo says
The proposed legislation is yet to find any sponsors in Congress, but it draws attention to a broken online privacy system where consumers have typically had little say over how companies collect and use information about them. It also comes as lawmakers consider online privacy legislation and scrutinize such web giants as Google and Facebook over how they collect and use consumer data.
The DuckDuckGo proposal would require sites to strictly adhere to the “Do Not Track” option in the internet browser settings that let users signal that they don’t want their online activity followed across the internet. Tens of millions of users have turned on the privacy setting, but there is no law requiring websites to respect the requests, Weinberg said.
Most websites simply ignore the Do Not Track signals, and third parties deploy hidden pieces of tracking software that collect consumers’ personal information from the websites they visit. The data are often used for targeted marketing and advertising.
With some exceptions, DuckDuckGo’s draft legislation would prohibit third parties from tracking users who enable the Do Not Track option in their browser. It would also bar the websites that consumers are visiting from sharing data with third parties. Exceptions include data collection for noncommercial research or security purposes.
“This is the easiest solution because it already has been implemented in web browsers and people are already using it,” Weinberg said. “It just needs to have some regulatory teeth behind it and bring it in line with consumer expectations.”