DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection is now available to all Android users in open beta after a full year in a private beta.
“App Tracking Protection for Android is a free feature in the DuckDuckGo Android app that helps block 3rd-party trackers in the apps on your phone (like Google snooping in your weather app) – meaning more comprehensive privacy and less creepy targeting,” the company explains. “You may have heard of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, a feature for iPhones and iPads that asks users whether they want to allow third-party app tracking or not in each of their apps. Most smartphone users worldwide actually use Android. So, we’re offering Android users something even more powerful: enable our App Tracking Protection and we’ll automatically block all the hidden trackers we can identify as blockable across your apps.”
According to DuckDuckGo, the average Android user has 35 apps on their smartphone and they experience 1000 to 2000 tracking attempts every single day via over 70 different tracking companies. Looking at a specific scenario involving the Southwest Airlines, Zillow, SeatGeek, Weather Network apps, the firm says that over 45 tracking firms will collect personal data like your location, email address, phone number, time zone, and a fingerprint of your device capabilities, all of which are used to specifically identify you.
Giant advertising firms like Facebook and Google use that information to build a profile that advertisers and content-targeting companies use to influence what you see online, DuckDuckGo says. And tracking networks sell your data to other companies like data brokers, advertisers, and governments, resulting in more substantial harms than creepy ads and targeting, including “ideological manipulation, discrimination, personal price manipulation, polarization, and more.”
With DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection enabled, your apps all work as before, but most 3rd-party trackers are blocked. You can also see how many trackers are blocked in real-time and optionally enable notifications for summaries.
To get DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection, download the DuckDuckGo app for Android, navigate to Settings > App Tracking Protection (in the More from DuckDuckGo section), and set up the service, which includes enabling the VPN connection. Then, it just works.
I tested DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection on my Pixel 6 Pro in late 2021 and found it to be quite effective. (I since switched to an iPhone and enabled Apple’s similar feature.)