DuckDuckGo revealed last week that its Android version would now have App Tracking Protection. And, based on our experience over multiple days, this feature works quite effectively. What concerned us was that the amount of secret tracking that the feature blocked.
On the desktop, at least for web programs, tracking protection is simple: just install an extension like uBlock Origin or DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials and no data sharing will occur without your consent. Mobile is, of course, more difficult. Apple added privacy protections to the iPhone in IOS 14.5 in April, including mobile app anti-tracking capability. On Android, however, we’re unlikely to see something similar. After all, Google makes the vast bulk of its money from advertising, which necessitates allowing monitoring across Android.
Over the last 3–4 days, 17 of our device’s apps have attempted to monitor us over 5,000 times. Some of them are from well-known brands, such as The New York Times app or Fitbit, which is hilarious and alarming.
You can view which trackers are being used by any program entry by selecting them. If you notice an app that isn’t working properly and feel it’s due to DuckDuckGo, you can turn off tracking for that app only. You can’t do that by selecting the app from a list, oddly enough. Instead, go to Manage Protection for Your Apps and uncheck the box next to the program in the list.
Finally, because DuckDuckGo makes use of the local VPN feature, you’ll notice a constant VPN icon in the status bar at the top. DuckDuckGo, like a handful of other apps, employs a silent notification, which adds another icon to the status bar, this time on the left. It’s useful to have when monitoring how App Tracking Protection functions, but users usually don’t like having things in their status bar that aren’t necessary. Silent notifications can be turned off in the status bar in Settings, or just that one notification symbol can be turned off.
Aside from the implementation, DuckDuckGo takes a very different approach to anti-tracking than Apple. The first time an app tries to monitor you on an iPhone, you will be prompted. DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, turns off tracking for all apps by default. You should keep an eye out for bugs throughout the beta, and as previously stated, you can off anti-tracking for apps as needed.