Privacy-focused browser DuckDuckGo has introduced a new tool that aims to prevent apps from tracking Android users. Called App Tracking Protection, the tool promises to offer protection from third-party trackers and the company claims that it works better than Apple’s App Tracking Transparency.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, which rolled out last year, gives users the option to opt-out of data tracking within apps. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool, as Kamyl Bazbaz, the vice president of communications at DuckDuckGo told The Verge, “only restricts direct access to a user’s IDFA, the rest is essentially an honor system, where Apple is asking developers to respect user choice not to track but isn’t actually blocking any third party trackers itself. App Tracking Protection blocks those third-party trackers directly, making the tool more powerful than what’s available on iOS.”
DuckDuckGo explained in its blog that the tool is going to identify and block trackers from third-party companies. The browser’s App Tracking Protection is going to be built into the Android app and will work across the device. It is not going to be available as a new update and cannot be downloaded separately.
The App Tracking Protection will have to be enabled on the browser and once that’s done it is going to run in the background.
DuckDuckGo says that the tool can recognise when an app is about to send data to a third-party tracker and will prevent the app from collecting user’s data. The company added that it is “continually working to identify and protect against new trackers”.
To explain it better, DuckDuckGo said that the tool is going to make a phone behave like a virtual private network (VPN) though the App Tracking Protection isn’t one.
“This is because App Tracking Protection uses a local ‘VPN connection’ which means that it works its magic right on your smartphone. However, App Tracking Protection is different from VPNs because it never routes app data through an external server,” the company explained in its blog.
The DuckDuckGo app is going to offer a real-time view of the trackers the App Tracking Protection has blocked and also mention where the data would have gone. The company added that in its internal tests they have found that more than 96 per cent of Android's popular free apps have third-party trackers and 87 per cent of these send user data to Google while 68 per cent send it to Facebook.
DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection tool is currently in beta mode and if you want to test it you can join a private waitlist. You can join the waitlist from the DuckDuckGo Android app. The company said that it is going to give more people access to the tool every week.
While DuckDuckGo cannot essentially change “the internal configuration of Android devices” and cannot provide the “same app tracking permission prompts that appear on Android and iOS”, but combined with the privacy settings that already exist in these devices, the tool can help you better protect user data. Google recently followed in Apple’s footsteps and has started making it more difficult for apps to collect data on users by “restricting them from accessing users’ Advertising ID after they have opted out of tracking”.
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