DuckDuckGo wants to stop apps from tracking you on Android

At the end In April, Apple’s introduction of application tracking transparency tools shook the advertising industry to its core. IPhone and iPad owners could now block apps from tracking their behavior and using their data for personalized ads. Since the launch of the new privacy controls, nearly $ 10 billion has been wiped out of Meta Platform’s Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube revenue.

Now a similar tool is coming to the Android operating system from Google, but not from Google itself. Privacy-focused tech company DuckDuckGo, which started life as a private search engine, is adding the ability to block hidden trackers to its Android app. The feature, dubbed “Application Tracking Protection for Android”, is rolling out in beta starting today and aims to mimic Apple’s iOS commands. “The idea is that we prevent this data collection from happening from apps that trackers don’t have,” says Peter Dolanjski, Product Manager at DuckDuckGo. “You should see a lot less scary ads following you online. “

The vast majority of apps have third-party trackers hidden in their code. These trackers monitor your behavior across different apps and help create profiles about you which may include what you buy, demographics, and other information that can be used to serve you personalized ads. DuckDuckGo says its analysis of popular free Android apps shows that over 96% of them contain trackers. Blocking these trackers means Facebook and Google, of which some of the most important trackers are, can’t send data back to the mothership, nor the dozens of ad networks you’ve never heard of.

From a user perspective, blocking trackers with DuckDuckGo’s tool is straightforward. App Tracking Protection appears as an option in the settings menu of its Android app. For now, you will see the option to register on a waiting list to access it. But once enabled, the feature shows the total number of trackers blocked over the past week and gives a breakdown of what has been blocked recently in each app. Open the application of the Daily mail, one of the largest news sites in the world, and DuckDuckGo will instantly register that it is blocking trackers from Google, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Adobe, and advertising company Taboola. An example from DuckDuckGo showed that over 60 apps had followed a test phone thousands of times in the past seven days.

My own experience has confirmed this. Using a fresh Google Pixel 6 Pro, I installed 36 popular free apps – some estimates say people install around 40 apps on their phones – and signed in to around half of them. These included the McDonald’s app, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, and BBC Sounds. Then with a preview of DuckDuckGo’s Android tracker blocking enabled, I left the phone alone for four days and didn’t use it at all. In 96 hours, 23 of those apps had made more than 630 background tracking attempts.

Daily use of your phone (opening and interacting with apps) leads to many more attempts to follow. When I opened the McDonald’s app, trackers from Adobe, cloud software company New Relic, Google, emotion tracking company Apptentive, and mobile analytics company Kochava attempted to collect data about me. . Opening the eBay and Uber apps, but not logging into them, was enough to trigger Google’s trackers.

Lance B. Holton