DuckDuckGo's latest feature prevents apps from tracking Android users
Privacy-centric browser DuckDuckGo has introduced a new feature called App Tracking Protection integrated into its browser app for Android. The tool aims to offer more protection than Apple's App Tracking Transparency framework on iOS and lets users opt-out of activity tracking within apps. Interestingly, although the feature is enabled by the DuckDuckGo browser, it works across apps on your device. Here are more details.
Why does it matter?
- Apple's App Tracking Transparency policy was a big step up in privacy for iOS users. It prevents installed apps from tracking user browsing activity for targeted advertising, without their consent.
- Despite having privacy settings users can customize, Android doesn't offer anything similar yet. With the new DuckDuckGo browser feature, a feasible option could be available now.
Apple just restricts trackers, but DuckDuckGo's feature blocks them completely
Speaking to The Verge, DuckDuckGo's VP of communications Kamyl Bazbaz explained that Apple's App Tracking Transparency tool "only restricts direct access to a user's IDFA (identity for advertisers)" but "isn't actually blocking any third party trackers itself." He said that DuckDuckGo's App Tracking Protection directly blocks the third-party trackers, "making the tool more powerful than what's available on iOS."
App Tracking Protection blocks all trackers, new and old
Once switched on from within the DuckDuckGo browser, App Tracking Protection runs in the background on your device, identifying apps that send data to third-party trackers and preventing them from doing so. Moreover, the feature reportedly works across every app you have installed, and DuckDuckGo says it is "continually working to identify and protect against new trackers."
Real-time details of blocked trackers are available on DuckDuckGo app
In a blog post about the new feature, DuckDuckGo said that App Tracking Protection works by creating a "local VPN connection," although it isn't a VPN function in the truest sense because "it never routes app data through an external server." From the DuckDuckGo app, you can access a real-time view of activity trackers that the feature blocked.
DuckDuckGo rolling out feature to more beta testers every week
The tool is being beta tested privately, and you can join the queue on DuckDuckGo by navigating to Settings > Privacy Section > App Tracking Protection > Join the Private Waitlist. DuckDuckGo is reportedly making the feature available to more people every week. Although the browser app won't have system-level Android access for an Apple-style implementation, it is a step in the right direction.