DuckDuckGo Develops a Tool to Prevent Android Users from being Tracked

Wired first reported on DuckDuckGo's new tool, which aims to prevent apps from tracking Android users. App Tracking Protection is essentially a scaled-down version of 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 built into DuckDuckGo's privacy-focused browser app, but it works on any device. The company claims that the tool will block "trackers it identifies 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 about to send data to a third-party tracker, it will prevent the app from doing so. 

According to DuckDuckGo, it's "constantly working 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 see a real-time view of trackers that the tool has blocked, as well as where your data would've been going, from the DuckDuckGo app.

Although the company's App Tracking Protection tool isn't a virtual private network (VPN), it claims that your device will behave as if it is. "This is because App Tracking Protection uses 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 routed through a third-party server.”

DuckDuckGo discovered that more than 96 percent of the most popular free Android apps contain third-party trackers that most users are unaware of while conducting its own test. 87 percent of these apps send user data to Google, while 68 percent send data to Facebook, according to the company.

The tool is currently in beta, but 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. Every week, DuckDuckGo claims to be rolling out the feature to more people.

As Wired points out, DuckDuckGo clearly lacks Google's ability to change the internal configuration of Android devices, implying that DuckDuckGo's tool can't completely replace Apple's. The same is true when you combine DuckDuckGo's blocker with Android's privacy settings — Apple's strict App Tracking Transparency tools effectively uproot the advertising system on iPhones, reportedly costing social platforms $10 billion.

In response to Apple's tracking tool, Google began restricting apps' access to users' Advertising IDs after they opted out of tracking. Although Android's looser policies are more app-friendly, its built-in privacy protections are still inferior to Apple's.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post