DuckDuckGo anti-tracking tool for Android can be "more powerful" than iOS

DuckDuckGo anti-tracking tool for Android can be “more powerful” than iOS

Zoom in / DuckDuckGo says App Tracking Protection automatically blocks many types of known trackers, while App Tracking Transparency blocks Apple IDFA (identifier for advertisers) and requires developers to block others.


Privacy-focused search site DuckDuckGo has added another way to prevent more of your data from going to advertisers, opening up its site App Tracking Protection for Android For beta testers.

DuckDuckGo positions App Tracking Protection as something like Apple App Tracking Transparency for iOS devices, but “more powerful”. Enabling the service in the DuckDuckGo Android app (under the “More from DuckDuckGo” section) installs a local VPN service on your phone, which can then automatically start blocking trackers on DDG Public ban list. DuckDuckGo says this happens “without sending application data to DuckDuckGo or other remote servers.”

DuckDuckGo's App Tracking Protection shows you details about what your Android apps are trying to send.
Zoom in / DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection shows you details about what your Android apps are trying to send.


Google recently provided Android users with some native tools to prevent spam tracking, including Agree to app-by-app location tracking And the Opt-out of ad tracking integrated with the limited content. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency questions whether users want to block apps from accessing IDFA, but apps can still Use of the largest tracking networks across many applications To improve profiles of application users.

Allison Goodman, senior director of communications at DuckDuckGo, told Ars Technica that App Tracking Protection needs Android’s VPN permission in order to be able to monitor network traffic. When it recognizes a tracker from its block list, it “looks the destination domain for any outgoing request and blocks it if it is on our block list and the requesting application is not owned by the same company that owns the domain.”

“A lot of the data trackers collect is not controlled by them,” Goodman added [Android] Permissions,” which makes App Tracking Protection a complementary offering.

App Tracking Protection launched a year ago in a limited beta. Since then, DuckDuckGo has updated the app to show you more information about the types of data trackers are trying to collect — “such as your exact location, age, and your phone’s digital footprint.” Through testing, DuckDuckGo noted that an Android phone with 35 apps can see 1,000 to 2,000 tracking attempts per day, and send data to more than 70 companies.

Matt Burgess of WIRED Test the app when it’s launchedhave 36 apps installed on a new Pixel 6 Pro and about half of them are signed in:

This included the McDonald’s app, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon and BBC Sounds. … I left the phone alone for four days and didn’t use it at all. In 96 hours, 23 of these apps made over 630 background tracking attempts.

When I opened the McDonald’s app, tracking devices from Adobe, cloud software company New Relic, Google, sentiment-tracking company Apptentive, and mobile analytics company Kochava tried to collect data on me. Opening the eBay and Uber apps—but not logging into them—was enough to get the Google trackers working.

DuckDuckGo notes that some apps are still excluded from tracking protection because they require tracking to work properly, particularly browsers and apps with in-app browsers. When I installed DuckDuckGo protection on my Android phone early last year, I had trouble renting Lime scooters and e-bikes and accessing an apartment building’s door-opening service. Then again, this is likely the kind of feedback DuckDuckGo is looking for in this beta.

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