DuckDuckGo wants to stop apps from tracking you on Android

Gabriel Weinberg, creator of DuckDuckGo.
Enlarge / Gabriel Weinberg, creator of DuckDuckGo.

Washington Post | fake images

At the end of April, Apple introduction of application tracking transparency tools it shook the advertising industry to its core. IPhone and iPad owners could now prevent apps from tracking their behavior and using their data for personalized advertising. Since the new privacy controls were launched, nearly $ 10 billion has been invested erasure of income from Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from Meta Platform.

Now, a similar tool is coming to Google’s Android operating system, although not from Google itself. Privacy-focused technology company Duck Duck to Win, who started life as a private search engine, you are adding the ability to block hidden trackers to your Android app. The feature, called “Android App Tracking Protection”, is unfolding in beta starting today and aims to mimic Apple’s iOS controls. “The idea is that we block this collection of data from applications that the trackers do not have,” says Peter Dolanjski, product manager at DuckDuckGo. “You should see a lot less creepy ads following you online.”

The vast majority of applications have third-party trackers hidden in their code. These trackers monitor your behavior in different applications and help create profiles about you that can include what you buy, demographics, and other information that can be used to serve you personalized ads. DuckDuckGo says its analysis of popular free Android apps shows that more than 96 percent of them contain trackers. Blocking these trackers means that Facebook and Google, whose trackers are some of the most prominent, can’t send data to the mothership, and neither can the dozens of ad networks you’ve never heard of.

From a user perspective, blocking trackers with the DuckDuckGo tool is straightforward. App tracking protection appears as an option in your Android app’s settings menu. For now, you will see the option to enter a waiting list to access it. But once activated, the feature shows the total number of trackers blocked in the last week and offers a breakdown of what has been blocked in each application recently. Open the Daily Mail app, one of the world’s largest news websites, and DuckDuckGo will instantly record that you are blocking trackers from Google, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Adobe, and the advertising company Taboola. An example from DuckDuckGo showed that more than 60 apps had crawled a test phone thousands of times in the last seven days.

My own experience confirmed it. Using a cool box Google Pixel 6 Pro, I installed 36 popular free apps (some estimates say people install around 40 apps on their phones and connect to about half of them. These included the McDonald’s app, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, and BBC Sounds. Then with a preview of DuckDuckGo’s Android tracker crash turned on, I left the phone alone for four days and didn’t use it at all. In 96 hours, 23 of these apps had made more than 630 background tracking attempts.

Using your phone on a daily basis, when opening and interacting with applications, you see many more tracking attempts. When I opened the McDonald’s app, trackers from Adobe, cloud software company New Relic, Google, emotion-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 activate Google’s trackers.

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