DuckDuckGo urges Congress to pass bill to stop advertisers from spying on people

Fears that your phone could spy on you and share the information with advertisers led Congress to ban surveillance ads, the company DuckDuckGo told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Search engine rival Google has backed a bill to prevent ads from targeting people based on personal data, which the House Energy and Commerce Committee considered at a hearing on Tuesday.

Katie McInnis, senior public policy manager at DuckDuckGo, said her company’s search engine uses contextual ads that rely on the content of a screen rather than the behavior of the person using its service.

“Behavioral advertising, on the other hand, is based on personal profiles of data collected both online and offline about you,” Ms McInnis said during the committee hearing. “Have you ever searched for something online and then seen an advert for the exact same thing pop up on another website or app, or maybe you thought your phone was listening to you because of the scary adverts you see online? That’s surveillance advertising.

Concerns about businesses using devices to eavesdrop on customers are not new.

For example, a Reddit user posted a screenshot in 2020 of Google sending notifications to his phone about alarms heard in his home.

Google said it was aware of an error that enabled sound detection alerts for things like smoke detectors or broken glass.

Ms McInnis refrained from directly accusing competitors of intentionally spying on people through their phones, but she said the Surveillance Advertising Ban Act would hurt Google and Facebook’s duopoly in the internet market. digital advertising.

The advertising market is not the only place where DuckDuckGo wants the government to diminish the business of its competitors.

The company joined a coalition urging the Senate Judiciary Committee in January to support the U.S. Online Innovation and Choice Act, which aims to prevent big tech companies from giving their own related products a head start. compared to those of their competitors.

However, DuckDuckGo also benefits from the advertising services of a major technology company.

Ad clicks on DuckDuckGo are managed by Microsoft’s ad network, according to the DuckDuckGo website, and Ms. McInnis referred questions about her ad revenue to Microsoft.

The question of DuckDuckGo’s relationship with Microsoft arose during questioning of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, about DuckDuckGo’s operations involving Russia.

Asked by Ms McMorris Rodgers about her company’s partnership with Russian internet company Yandex, Ms McInnis said her company cut off its relationship amid the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Given that you generate revenue through contextual advertising and affiliate programs, are you able to tell if this revenue has already been generated by Russian state media sources in this partnership?” said Mrs. McMorris Rodgers.

“I don’t know,” Ms. McInnis said. “Our ads are delivered through Bing’s contextual ads program, so Microsoft’s ad would have the best information about it.”

Ms. McInnis wore yellow and blue eyeshadow — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — in court. Ms McMorris Rodgers showed her support for the people of Ukraine by wearing a yellow blazer.

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