Your Android apps follow you. Here’s how to stop them

Duck Duck Go started out as a privacy-focused search engine. It obviously had (and still has) very fierce competition with Google. But the company behind the search engine didn’t just offer this service and soon started building a web browser. Said web browser was designed, from the ground up, to be just as privacy-centric as the search engine.

The first platform to receive the Duck Duck Go browser was Android and while I don’t use it as my go-to mobile browser, there is one feature that I absolutely depend on. This feature is called App Tracking Protection and blocks third-party trackers that hide in apps you have installed. That’s right, tracking doesn’t just happen in a web browser, but also in one of those apps you have installed.

In today’s world of constant privacy invasions and security threats, you’ll want to block any kind of tracking possible. Since installing Duck Duck Go and enabling App Tracking Protection, I’ve been getting a pretty steady stream of tracking blocks when an app isn’t in use or even when an app doesn’t have been open for weeks or months.

Here’s an example: In the past 5 hours, Duck Duck Go App Tracking Protection has blocked the following:

  • 4 tracking attempts from the Uber app (have not used the app since Nov 2021).

  • 38 tracking attempts from NYTimes app (I didn’t open the app today).

  • 30 tracking attempts from my banking app (which I used this morning).

Duck Duck Go blocked every one of those attempts, without me having to do anything. With these tracking attempts blocked, apps (and the companies behind them) can’t track my behavior whether I’m using the app or not. And given that companies often track you through apps they don’t even own, the need for such privacy protection is magnified.

You too can enjoy such privacy. However, there is a caveat. App Tracking Protection is currently in beta, so you need to request an invite from the program to enable the feature. But once your invitation is accepted, you can enable app tracking protection and enjoy the extra privacy.

Let’s install Duck Duck Go on Android and enable the app tracking protection feature.

Install Duck Duck Go on Android

The installation process for Duck Duck Go is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device.

  2. Search Duck Duck Go.

  3. Locate and press the entry by DuckDuckGo

  4. Tap Install

  5. Let the installation complete

Once the installation is complete, you should find the Duck Duck Go app in your app drawer. Tap the launcher to open the app.

How to enable app tracking protection

With the app open, tap the menu (three vertical buttons in the top right) and tap Settings from the pop-up menu. Scroll down the Settings menu and tap App Tracking Protection. When prompted, tap Join Private Waitlist to be added to the mailing list. You shouldn’t have to wait too long to be accepted. Close the app and wait a few minutes before reopening.

Once you’ve been accepted into the beta program, return to the Settings menu and tap App Tracking Protection. You should now see the On/Off slider associated with App Tracking Protection (Figure A).

Figure A

duck1.jpg

App Tracking Protection has been enabled on my Pixel 6 Pro.

At this point, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the extra protection that Duck Duck Go offers. You’ll get notifications whenever an app tracker is blocked, and you’ll be surprised how often it happens. .

Lance B. Holton