Apple’s Senior Vice President of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, John Giannandrea, testified this week in the Department of Justice’s ongoing antitrust lawsuit against search giant, Google. At the core of his testimony, Giannandrea showcased a nuanced feature of iOS 17: a setting that enables users to select two distinct default search engines on their Apple devices.
Though it is not the primary defendant, Apple’s role in the DOJ’s lawsuit stems from its lucrative default search engine agreement with Google. This alliance, where Google annually pays Apple billions to remain the iPhone, iPad, and Mac’s default search engine, stands at the lawsuit’s forefront. The DOJ postulates that this accord could be instrumental in Google’s alleged dominance and unfair control over the search market.
As covered by Bloomberg, Giannandrea elaborated on iOS 17’s innovative setting. Users can now designate separate search engines for conventional Safari browsing and the Private Browsing mode. While Google remains the preset choice for both settings, users gain increased flexibility, allowing them to differentiate their search preferences for the two browsing avenues. This choice is made accessible through the “Private Search Engine” option in the Safari section of the Settings app, offering alternatives like Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia.
Interestingly, this search feature was largely unnoticed during the iOS 17 beta testing phase over the summer. Now that iOS 17 is widely available, Apple underscores this unique search option as a pivotal facet of its ongoing relationship with Google.
Having served at Google for eight years, notably as its Senior Vice President of Engineering for search, Giannandrea’s insights are deemed crucial for the lawsuit. Apple’s Eddy Cue and Adrian Perica are also slated to offer testimonies in the case.
Although Apple had argued that there wasn’t a need for testimonies from Cue, Giannandrea, and Perica, the court saw otherwise.