Google’s privacy and antitrust struggles have far from slowed down (more on that later), and it’s becoming clear that new competitors see right now as the perfect opportunity to pounce. They’re not wrong: DuckDuckGo, a privacy-centered alternative, very recently surpassed Bing to become the No. 2 mobile search engine in the U.S.
Just last week, we reported on Brave, an open-source browser that will soon be launching Brave Search, the first privacy-focused alternative to Google Search that offers a search engine and browser that both work on desktop and mobile devices. Now, there’s another new search engine ready to take on Google – and this time, it’s personal.
Neeva is the latest privacy-oriented search engine to throw its hat in the ring, and it’s doing things differently. Neeva is set to be a subscription-based search engine, costing users between $5-$10 per month, and won’t sell ads or data or track user behavior. Founded by ex-Google employees, Neeva has already gained $40 million in Series B funding, and it has set up its headquarters just around the corner from Google.
Co-founder and CEO Sridhar Ramaswamy has an incredible amount of insider knowledge, having run Google’s search ads business from 2007 and its ads business from 2013 to 2018. Co-founder Vivek Raghunathan was VP of Monetization at YouTube and worked at Google for almost 12 years. That gives the duo some serious search street cred. Three more former Google employees – Udi Manber, Margo Georgiadis and Darin Fisher – have also joined the Neeva team.
In an interview with Fast Company, Ramaswamy addressed Google’s conflict of interest between serving ads to users vs. serving the most relevant search result. Increasingly, he said, the ads played a more significant role, and he realized something needed to change. Neeva’s model hopes to solve this problem, making search safe and accessible for everyone.
Rebekah Dunne of Search Engine Journal wrote an excellent blog that explains what we know about Neeva so far. And, if you want to be an early tester once the search engine is up and running, you can sign up and join the waitlist.
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Here’s Everything We Know About FLoC, Google’s Third-Party Cookie Replacement: A couple of weeks ago, Google announced its intention to change up its entire advertising model in an attempt to ward off some of the privacy-related criticism the company has faced. While Google did say last year that it would be moving away from third-party cookies, it only recently confirmed that these would not be replaced with any alternate tracking tool. Well, Google’s alternative to third-party cookies is here, and it’s in the form of a Privacy Sandbox initiative called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). FLoC groups users into specific cohorts based on their interests, adding another layer of privacy protection and eliminating advertisers’ abilities to reach individual users. There’s a lot to unpack here, and George Nguyen of Search Engine Land does a brilliant job of it. If you’re wondering what the FLoC is going on (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), check out Nguyen’s latest blog for everything we know about so far and what to expect down the road.
DuckDuckGo Skewers Google Over iOS Privacy Labels: Google just keeps taking hit after hit. Today, it’s DuckDuckGo delivering a total knockout. A bit of backstory: As of December last year, Apple is requiring Google and other developers to provide privacy labels on iOS that list how much data their apps collect from iPhone users as well as what the data is used for. Getting Google on board with this has taken several months, but the deed has finally been done, and the picture it paints is not all that pretty. A long-time Google critic, DuckDuckGo did not hold back when the full extent of Google’s data collection was put on display for the world to see. It posted a scathing message across its social media channels, accusing Google of “spying” on users. While not everybody agrees, DuckDuckGo’s rapid growth proves there’s plenty of people who do.
Google Is Facing Yet Another Lawsuit – This Time, for Tracking Users in Incognito Mode: Here we go again. The antitrust lawsuits keep on coming, and now it’s Chrome’s Incognito mode at the center of it. Yikes. A $5 billion lawsuit has been filed against the search engine giant, alleging that users are still being tracked even while browsing in private mode. This comes after a complaint filed last June alleging that Google’s tracking persists even after users take steps to protect their privacy. Google has since sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. Now, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has ruled that Google does not do enough to inform users that their data can, in fact, be collected in Incognito, and the lawsuit must move forward. Yes, Google is actively trying to combat its own privacy problems, but every one step forward seems to be met with two steps back.
Two Separate WordPress Vulnerabilities Affect Almost 10 Million Sites: Watch out, WordPress site owners – this week has been full of unwelcome surprises. First, an authenticated remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability was found in the WP Super Cache plugin, which could allow a hacker to upload and run malicious code and gain administrator-level control of the site. If you’re one of the 2 million websites affected, be sure to update to the latest version, 1.7.2. Two days later, on Thursday, another 7 million WordPress users were affected – sites built with Elementor. Designated as a Stored Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability, it allows attackers to upload malicious script that can steal everything from cookies to password credentials from any visitor to the web page. This issue is no joke, so if you haven’t yet, it’s vital to update to the latest Elementor version possible (or, at the very least, to version 3.1.4).
Google’s Annual Ads Safety Report Quantifies a Disastrous Year for Online Advertising: Last year was rough for a number of reasons – COVID-19, increased disinformation and the volatile political climate chief among them. Google’s annual Ads Safety Report reveals the digital advertising industry was affected by all of these in a big way. In a turbulent, record-setting 2020, Google blocked 3.1 billion ads, restricted a further 6.4 billion and suspended 1.7 million advertisers for reasons ranging from scam ads to political insensitivity. These numbers show what search markets were up against in 2020 – a year when the global ad market declined by more than 10 percent and advertising went awry. With Google’s advertising model set to undergo massive changes in the near future, it will be fascinating to see how the 2021 report compares.
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