App Tracking Protection for Android is a free feature from the privacy-focused company that blocks third-party trackers within apps, even when said apps aren’t actively being used. When enabled in DuckDuckGo’s browser, it detects when apps are about to send data to a list of third-party tracking companies on DuckDuckGo’s publicly available blocklist and then blocks most of those data requests. It all happens on the device without routing your data through DuckDuckGo’s servers.
The App Tracking Protection for Android feature was first unveiled at the end of last year via a private wait list for closed beta testing. Since then, a new feature has been added to the tool that allows users to see what personal data is being collected by trackers in real time prior to blocking, including information like your precise location, age, and your phone’s digital fingerprint. Other changes include general performance improvements, and a 50 percent reduction in apps excluded from tracking protection, many of which rely on tracking to work properly.
in a blog announcing the public beta rollout, DuckDuckGo claims that the average Android user has 35 apps on their phone and can experience between 1,000 and 2,000 tracking attempts from over 70 different tracking companies every day. One example cited using just four apps — Southwest Airlines, Zillow, SeatGeek, and The Weather Network — allows over 45 tracking companies to collect user data such as location, email address, phone number, time zone, and device information (including screen resolution, device make and model, language, and local internet provider). This information can then be sold to companies such as data brokers, advertisers, and even governments. Tracking data is also used by companies like Meta and Google to build creepily specific advertising profiles that target users and make them feel as if they’re being listened to.
Despite similarities to Apple’s own App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, DuckDuckGo claims its App Tracking Protection for Android is superior. Kamyl Bazbaz, the vice president of communications at DuckDuckGo, previously told The Verges that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool “only restricts direct access to a user’s IDFA [Identifier for Advertisers], 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 themselves. App Tracking Protection blocks those third-party trackers directly, making the tool more powerful than what’s available on iOS.”