A new DuckDuckGo solution claims to protect Android users from being tracked by apps
The feature will be included in the Android version of the DuckDuckGo app.
Wired originally reported on DuckDuckGo’s new feature, which tries to block apps from tracking Android users. App Tracking Protection aims to provide better protection against third-party trackers than Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, which allows users to opt-out of data tracking within apps.
DuckDuckGo’s tool, on the other hand, hasn’t been rolled out to all Android phones as part of an update, nor is it available as a separate download — it’s incorporated into DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused browser app, but it works on any device. The company claims that the tool will prevent “trackers it discovers in other apps from third-party companies” in a blog post.
When you enable App Tracking Protection, it will run in the background while you are using your phone. When the tool detects that an app is ready to submit data to a third-party tracker, it will prohibit the app from doing so.
According to DuckDuckGo, it’s “constantly striving to identify and protect against new trackers,” which means your data should be safe from any new trackers that emerge. You should be able to get a real-time display of trackers that the tool has blocked, as well as where your data would’ve been traveling, from the DuckDuckGo app.
Although the company’s App Tracking Protection tool isn’t a virtual private network (VPN), it claims that your smartphone will act as if it were. “This is because App Tracking Protection employs a local ‘VPN connection,’ which means it does its magic right on your smartphone,” explains DuckDuckGo in its blog post. “However, App Tracking Protection differs from VPNs in that app data is never sent through a third-party server.”
DuckDuckGo discovered that more than 96 percent of the most popular free Android apps have third-party trackers that most users are unaware of while performing their own tests. 87 percent of these apps give user data to Google, while 68 percent send data to Facebook, according to the company.
The tool is currently in testing, however, you can join the private waitlist (without providing any personal information). To get started, go to the Google Play Store and download DuckDuckGo. In the “Privacy Section,” go to “Settings,” then “App Tracking Protection.” Select “Join the Private Waitlist” from the drop-down menu. DuckDuckGo claims to be gradually rolling out the service to more users.
As Wired points out, DuckDuckGo clearly lacks the ability to change the internal configuration of Android devices, which means that DuckDuckGo’s tool cannot provide the same app tracking permission questions that show on Android and iOS. However, by combining the App Tracking Protection feature with the privacy settings currently present on Android devices, you can help safeguard your data from third-party trackers and apps. Google, like Apple, has recently made it more difficult for applications to collect data on users by preventing them from accessing users’ Advertising IDs if they’ve opted out of monitoring.
Apple’s strict App Tracking Transparency tools fundamentally uproot the advertising system on iPhones, reportedly costing social sites $10 billion. However, as The Washington Post reports, Apple’s privacy approach is limited in that it only restricts access to users’ Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFA).
According to a DuckDuckGo spokeswoman, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature “only prevents direct access to a user’s IDFA, the rest is effectively an honor system, where Apple is urging developers to respect user decides not to track but isn’t actually banning any third-party trackers.” App Tracking Protection directly prevents third-party trackers, making the feature more powerful than what is currently available on iOS.”