DuckDuckGo has committed to changing the terms of its search syndication agreement with Microsoft to improve privacy for its users. DuckDuckGo CEO and Founder Gabriel Weinberg confirmed the news himself after a security researcher pointed out that DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Browser on mobile gave Microsoft’s trackers a special treatment.
Zach Edwards, a privacy and data supply chain researcher posted a long Twitter thread earlier this week explaining that the DuckDuckGo mobile browser didn’t stop data transfers to Bing or LinkedIn, even though the app can block trackers from Google or Facebook. In his response to Edwards, the DuckDuckGo CEO highlighted that the company’s partnership with Microsoft was public, emphasizing the fact that “Microsoft Advertising does not associate your ad-click behavior with a user profile.”
“For non-search tracker blocking (eg in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. Unfortunately our Microsoft search syndication agreement prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties. However, we have been continually pushing and expect to be doing more soon,” the DuckDuckGo CEO continued.
Even though this search syndication agreement with Microsoft was probably not well known by most DuckDuckGo users, the company tried to be pretty clear about the fact that it can’t offer complete anonymity to its userbase. In a statement shared with Bleeping Computer, the company also claimed that its approach to privacy is still better than what other web browsers currently offer.
“We have always been extremely careful to never promise anonymity when browsing, because that frankly isn’t possible given how quickly trackers change how they work to evade protections and the tools we currently offer. When most other browsers on the market talk about tracking protection, they are usually referring to 3rd-party cookie protection and fingerprinting protection, and our browsers for iOS, Android, and our new Mac beta, impose these restrictions on third-party tracking scripts, including those from Microsoft.
What we’re talking about here is an above-and-beyond protection that most browsers don’t even attempt to do — that is, blocking third-party tracking scripts before they load on 3rd party websites. Because we’re doing this where we can, users are still getting significantly more privacy protection with DuckDuckGo than they would using Safari, Firefox and other browsers. (…) Our goal has always been to provide the most privacy we can in one download, by default without any complicated settings.”