Android Gets Anti-Tracking Feature Thanks To DuckDuckGo App
App Tracking Protection in the DuckDuckGo app is free to use, but it is currently in a beta phase and asks users to join a private waitlist.
DuckDuckGo is known as a privacy-focused alternative to Google Search, and the team behind the alternate search engine has now launched an ‘App Tracking Protection’ tool that blocks hidden trackers in other apps, somewhat like Apple’s own solution. Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency with the rollout of iOS 14.5 to provide users with an opportunity to accept or block an app from tracking their activity across other apps and websites.
When users open an iOS app for the first time, they are shown a prompt asking if it can track their activity in order to collect relevant data and show them personalized ads. According to some initial findings, a majority of Apple device users actually opted out of being tracked when given the chance. The move came as a setback for the online advertisement industry, so much that it wiped around $10 billion from the collective ad revenue for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Snap.
Google plans to implement a similar system via the Play Store, but those plans haven’t materialized just yet. In the meantime, DuckDuckGo has announced its App Tracking Protection for Android. The feature is baked right inside the eponymous app and claims to block third-party trackers in other apps that feed data to the likes of Google and Facebook. Asserting the need for such a system on Android smartphones, DuckDuckGo claims that its investigation found hidden third-party trackers inside 96-percent of the most popular free Android apps, of which 87-percent fed data to Google and 67-percent seeded the user’s phone activity to Facebook.
A Work In Progress, But In The Right Direction
DuckDuckGo’s anti-tracking solution is free and touted to block third-party trackers lurking inside apps. Once enabled, it will actively spot data packets every time an app tries to send data to third-party tracking companies and block it. This tracking-and-blocking mechanism also happens in the background when the phone is just sitting idle, and all activity happens on-device instead of routing data through an external server like a VPN does. If users allow notifications, the DuckDuckGo app will show them a real-time view as third-party trackers are blocked. The feature is currently in the beta phase and users need to join a private waitlist that lets in new participants on a weekly basis.
For those interested in trying App Tracking Protection, download the DuckDuckGo app from the Play Store, go to the app’s Settings section, tap on App Tracking Protection, and select Join the Private Waitlist on the next page. There will be a few exceptions initially, says the company. For example, there are certain cases like mobile games where tracking is necessary to work properly. If users run into issues, such as the inability to upload files, videos not loading properly, or if an app starts running slow, they can choose to individually whitelist those apps. DuckDuckGo says that, over time, it will trim down the list of apps that need to steer clear of its anti-tracking system due to performance and functionality issues.
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