When Google first rolled out its Accelerated Mobile Page (or AMP) protocol in 2015, the research firm promised the technology would bring faster browsing to wearable gadgets everywhere. That may be the case, but what has also become clear over the ensuing years is that AMP has become less about speed and more about give up more power and more user data to a data-hungry juggernaut.
“AMP technology is bad for privacy because it allows Google to track users even more (which is already a ton),” search engine DuckDuckGo tweeted on Tuesday.
It was only a matter of time before some major players in the tech space found a way around it.
That’s exactly what we saw this week when privacy professionals Brave and DuckDuckGo announced two separate initiatives intended to reduce the additional tracking that Google launches on AMP-enabled web pages. Brave’s new feature, called “De-AMP”, will be enabled “by default” in the desktop and Android versions of its namesake browser (with iOS functionality in the works), according to a corporate blog posted Tuesday afternoon. Shortly after posting this message, DuckDuckGo took to Twitter announce that all of its apps and extensions would also protect against AMP tracking.
“Google is using AMP to further entrench its monopoly, forcing the technology on publishers by prioritizing AMP links in search and favoring Google ads on AMP pages,” DuckDuckGo tweeted.
In this regard, the company is absolutely right. While there are plenty of diatribes against AMP that you can read somewhere else, what you need to know is that AMP-enabled pages are where Google controls 99% of the analytics and advertising technology built in by design – which means that when these software gobble up your data, it goes directly between the hands of Google. You’ve probably encountered one of these sites when trying to open, say, a story on a cool news site, only to open a Google URL that hosts that story instead.
DuckDuckGo’s tweet didn’t go into detail about how it plans to circumvent this technology, although Gizmodo asked for additional details. The company’s tweet simply stated that when someone loads a Google AMP-enabled page using a DuckDuckGo app or browser extension, “the original publisher’s webpage will be used instead. instead of the Google AMP version”.
Brave, meanwhile, offered a clearer picture of how De-AMP should work. “Where possible,” the company explained in its blog post, the browser will “rewrite links and URLs” to prevent users from landing on these Google-linked versions of pages. When this is not possible, the Brave browser monitors web pages for potential AMP on-site code rendering – if spotted, it stops loading the current page and redirects users to the “real” version of that site , all before the page is even fully rendered.
“An ethical web should be a user-centric web, where users control their browsing and know who they are communicating with,” Brave wrote on his blog. Hopefully this new update will make that a bit easier.