Saturday, September 23, 2023

DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection has entered public beta

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Shreya Christina
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App Tracking Protection for Android is a free feature from the privacy-focused company that blocks third-party trackers within apps, even when those apps aren’t actively being used. When enabled in DuckDuckGo’s browser, it detects when apps are about to send data to a list of third-party tracking companies on DuckDuckGo’s publicly available block list and then blocks most of those data requests. It all happens on the device, without passing your data through DuckDuckGo’s servers.

A screenshot of a phone showing a list of apps, along with a number of tracking attempts for each app.

App Tracking Protection’s “Activity Report” lets you see which third parties are trying to track you.
Image: DuckDuckGo

The App Tracking Protection feature for Android was first revealed late last year through a private closed beta testing waitlist. Since then, a new feature has been added to the tool that allows users to see in real time what personal data is collected by trackers before they are blocked, including information such as your exact location, age, and your phone’s digital fingerprint. Other changes include general performance improvements and a 50 percent reduction in the number of apps excluded from tracking protection, many of which rely on tracking to work properly.

In a blog announcing the public beta rollout, DuckDuckGo claims that the average Android user has 35 apps on their phone and can experience between 1,000 and 2,000 tracking attempts from over 70 different tracking companies each day. A cited example using just four apps — Southwest Airlines, Zillow, SeatGeek, and Weather Network — enables more than 45 tracking companies to collect user data such as location, email address, phone number, time zone, and device information (including screen resolution, device brand, and model). , language and local internet provider). This information can then be sold to companies such as data brokers, advertisers and even governments. Tracking data is also used by companies like Meta and Google to build eerily specific ad profiles that target users and make them feel listened to.

An app tracking mind map showing what kind of personal information is being collected, such as device language, email addresses, and GPS coordinates.

A new feature for DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection tool allows Android users to see in real time what personal data third-party trackers are trying to track.
Image: DuckDuckGo

Despite similarities to Apple’s own App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, DuckDuckGo claims its App Tracking Protection for Android is superior. Earlier, Kamyl Bazbaz, the vice president of communications at DuckDuckGo, told me The edge that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool “only restricts direct access to a user’s IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers)”, the rest is essentially an honor system, with Apple asking developers to respect the user’s choice not to track respect, but not actually block third party trackers themselves. App Tracking Protection directly blocks those third-party trackers, making the tool more powerful than what’s available on iOS.”

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