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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As part of its antitrust inquiry into Google, the Justice Department is seeking a variety of documents and information from DuckDuckGo, a privacy-oriented search service that competes with Google, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Justice Department appears to be seeking information similar to what was gathered in an earlier EU inquiry — particularly about the types of deals and arrangements that Google and other companies have made to get their services installed by default on various devices and browsers.

The big picture: The requests for information are extremely broad. For example, the section on deals reads: "Submit all documents relating to any plans of, interest in, or efforts undertaken by the Company or any other person for any acquisition, divestiture, joint venture, alliance, or merger of any kind involving the sale of any product or service."

Among the information sought, according to an 8-page civil investigative demand sent earlier this month:

  • Any evidence or allegations that any player in the market is behaving in an anticompetitive manner.
  • Details of business deals to promote or preference its products.
  • Details on the company's revenue and expenses.

What they're saying: DuckDuckGo confirmed to Axios that it received the document request, which it referred to as a subpoena.

"While private search is only one of the privacy protection tools we offer, the subpoena concerns our experience competing in the search market, including search syndication contracts and default search deals.  We intend to cooperate with this inquiry as best we can because robust scrutiny promotes healthy competition, greater choice for users, and stronger data privacy practices."
— DuckDuckGo, in a statement to Axios
  • The company noted that it won't need to share any personal information with the government to respond to the request, given that it doesn't collect any in the first place.

Between the lines: DuckDuckGo's civil investigative demand offers a window onto the nature of similar requests that Microsoft and many other players have presumably received from the DOJ. Google disclosed last week that it had received a document request from the Justice Department.

The bigger picture: DuckDuckGo is a relatively small player in the search market, which is dominated by Google, with Microsoft and Yahoo holding a distant second and third position.

  • However, DuckDuckGo has seen its business grow significantly in recent months amid greater privacy concerns.
  • The company reported that it saw nearly 1.38 billion searches in August, up from 989 million queries during February of this year.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.

3 hours ago - World

Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor, succeeding Merkel

Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is sworn in by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas in Berlin today. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was sworn in as chancellor of Germany on Wednesday, succeeding Angela Merkel after 16 years and launching a new era of German and European politics.

Why it matters: Scholz, a center-left pragmatist who served as finance minister and vice chancellor in Merkel's last government, will lead Europe's largest economy in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats.

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