New DuckDuckGo Tool Supposed to Stop Apps From Tracking Android Users
DuckDuckGo’s new tool aims to stop apps from tracking Android users, first reported by Wired. The tool, called App Tracking Protection, is essentially a watered-down version of Apple’s app tracking transparency feature, which gives users the choice to turn off data tracking in apps.
However, DuckDuckGo’s tool was not rolled out as an update to all Android phones, nor is it available as a separate download – it is built into the browser app. DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused, but works on your device. In a blog post, the company claims the tool will block “trackers it identifies in other third-party company applications.”
Once app tracking protection is turned on, it will run in the background when you use your phone. The tool recognizes when an app is about to send data to a third-party tracker, and will then prevent the app from taking your information.
DuckDuckGo says it “is constantly working to identify and protect against new trackers,” meaning your data should be kept away from any new tracker that pops up. From the DuckDuckGo app, you should also be able to see a real-time view of which trackers the tool has blocked, as well as where your data is going.
The company claims that while its application tracking protection tool is not a virtual private network (VPN), your device will behave as if it were. “That’s because app tracking protection uses a local ‘VPN connection’, which means it works its magic right on your smartphone,” DuckDuckGo explains in his article. “However, application tracking protection is different from VPNs in that it never routes application data through an external server.”
In its own test, DuckDuckGo found that over 96% of the most popular free Android apps have third-party trackers that most people don’t know about. The company also found that 87% of these apps send user data to Google, while 68% send data to Facebook.
Right now, the tool is in beta, but you can join the private waitlist (you won’t have to enter any personal information to do so). To register, download DuckDuckGo from the Google Play Store and open the app. Tap “Settings” followed by “Application tracking protection” in the “Privacy section.” From there, choose “Join Private Waitlist”. DuckDuckGo says it’s gradually introducing the feature to more people every week.
As pointed out Wired, DuckDuckGo obviously does not have the power to change the internal configuration of Android devices like Google does, which means that DuckDuckGo’s tool still cannot completely replace Apple’s. The same goes if you combine DuckDuckGo’s blocker and the privacy settings already present on Android devices.
In response to Apple’s tracking tool, Google began to make it harder for apps to collect user data by preventing them from accessing users’ advertising IDs after they opted out of tracking. Android’s softer policies may be more app-friendly, but its built-in privacy protections still fall short of Apple’s.