DuckDuckGo browser to start blocking Microsoft trackers
Previously, we reported that the DuckDuckGo browser isn’t as private as you might think, as it allows Microsoft trackers. However, a new blog post from DuckDuckGo has announced that the browser will have more web tracking protections and will now block Microsoft trackers.
The transparency of DuckDuckGo
It was clear after my first report on this topic that the people behind DuckDuckGo are very concerned about how the browser and search engine are conveyed. They released a statement which we added in full at the end of my original article.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg said in the statement that they “have always been extremely careful to never promise anonymity while browsing” because that is simply not possible. He also mentioned that they are updating the App Store descriptions to make this more clear.
Weinberg was also completely honest in stating that one of the “constraints” to providing protection is “contractual”. DuckDuckGo gets most of its search results from Bing. This is what created the first more in-depth look at this practice. If you click on a Microsoft advertisement while on the DuckDuckGo browser, your IP address will be sent to Microsoft.
New DuckDuckGo Browser Policy
Weinberg published a blog post on Aug. 5, stating that the company’s vision is to “elevate the level of trust online,” and that includes being transparent about its own privacy protections. The hope is that it “makes the internet less scary”.
At this point, I think we’re all on the same page. As patrons of the internet, we want privacy, we want apps and websites to be transparent, and certainly, we all wish they were less scary. The internet is a powerful beast, and with power comes responsibility. As an internet user, I just want websites to be honest. If any website or app is using my information, they should at least admit it.
Weinberg reported hearing several users say that DuckDuckGo didn’t meet “their expectations of one of our browser’s web tracking protections.”
Throughout this week, DuckDuckGo is expanding the list of scripts blocked by its third-party tracker loading protections on websites. It will now include Microsoft scripts on iOS and Android apps and Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and Opera extensions. More beta apps are coming. Scripts that are already on the list include Facebook and Google.
Although many browsers have default tracking protection, this one mainly deals with cookie and fingerprinting protections that “restrict third-party tracking scripts after they load into your browser”. Yet this leaves your IP address and other identifying information vulnerable. Third-party tracker loading protection fills this gap and prevents trackers from loading.
Weinberg indicated that they had no contractual commitment with any company other than Microsoft, and now they are no longer restricted with Microsoft. Additionally, he said Microsoft’s tracking was already limited due to other web tracking protections, but now the update enables better tracking blockers than with most other browsers.
Now, when you click on a Microsoft-provided ad that appears on DuckDuckGo, Microsoft Advertising does not associate your ad click behavior with a user profile. To see if an ad on DuckDuckGo is effective in Microsoft Advertising, Microsoft scripts with the bat.bing.com domain are used.
DuckDuckGo is now working on an architecture for private ad conversions that can be externally validated as “non-profiling” to stop relying on bat.bing.com, and Safari and Firefox are also working on this issue.
While browser extensions, non-beta apps, and Tracker Rader were already open source, DuckDuckGo made its tracking protection list publicly available and updated the privacy dashboard to show more information about third party requests. A new help page has also been added.
Weinberg ended his blog post by stating that he “has been building DuckDuckGo as an independent business for almost 15 years” and that he believes “more than ever the majority of people online would choose to be more private s ‘They could press an ‘easy privacy’ button.’ That’s why our product vision is to pack as much privacy as possible into one package.We have a long-term commitment to making privacy accessible to everyone and we will continue to strive to build quality, understanding and confidence in our product.
Want to know more about DuckDuckGo? Learn about its email protection service.
Image credit: Unsplash All screenshots by Laura Tucker
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