DuckDuckGo today announced a new app tracking protection feature in its Android app that will block Google and Facebook trackers in other apps. It’s available now in beta, but you need to join a waitlist to get it.
“You’ve probably heard about companies tracking you behind the scenes on smartphone apps they don’t own (like Google hiding in the Nike app),” the DuckDuckGo announcement post notes. “These hidden app trackers are super creepy because they can track everything you do in an app and also can continue to track you even when you’re not using the app. Many of these trackers are designed to record your activity in real-time: where you are, what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and even how many hours you sleep at night.”
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To combat this activity—which DuckDuckGo says is found in over 96 percent of the popular free Android apps it tested—the firm is adding a new App Tracking Protection feature to its Android app. It will work similarly to the App Tracking Transparency feature that Apple recently made available to iPhone users, in that it will block trackers it identifies in other apps from third-party companies like Facebook and Google. And it is free.
After you enable this feature in the DuckDuckGo mobile app, it will detect when other apps are about to send data to third-party tracking companies found in its app tracker dataset, and then block those requests. The apps will work normally while App Tracking Protection runs in the background, like a VPN, though DuckDuckGo notes it is not a VPN. “App Tracking Protection uses a local ‘VPN connection’ which means that it works its magic right on your smartphone,” the firm explains. “However, App Tracking Protection is different from VPNs because it never routes app data through an external server.”
The DuckDuckGo app will also provide a real-time display of the trackers it is blocking, and it will identify the networks they are trying to send data to. In its testing, 87 percent of apps sent data to Google and 68 percent sent data to Facebook.
To access App Tracking Protection in beta, you will need to join the waitlist: Install DuckDuckGo on your handset, run it, and navigate to Settings > App Tracking Protection (under Privacy). Then, select “Join the Private Waitlist.”