Introducing App Tracking Protection for Android: The easiest way to block most trackers lurking in your apps

Filed under DuckDuckGo News on
  • DuckDuckGo is launching App Tracking Protection for Android into beta, a new feature in our existing app that will block most third-party trackers like Google and Facebook lurking in other apps.
  • Join the private waitlist from our Android app today and help shape the future of App Tracking Protection!

You’ve probably heard about companies tracking you behind the scenes on smartphone apps they don’t own (like Google hiding in the Nike app). These hidden app trackers are super creepy because they can track everything you do in an app and also can continue to track you even when you’re not using the app. Many of these trackers are designed to record your activity in real time: where you are, what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and even how many hours you sleep at night.

Across all your apps, your personal data is being sent to dozens of third-party companies, thousands of times per week. This data enables tracking networks like Facebook and Google to create even more detailed digital profiles on you. With those profiles, tracking networks can manipulate what you see online, target you with ads based on your behavior, and even sell your data to other companies like data brokers, advertisers, and governments.

Over 96% of the popular free Android apps we tested (based on rankings) contained hidden third-party trackers. Of those, 87% sent data to Google and 68% sent data to Facebook. A report by AppCensus found similar results.

Companies hide trackers in your apps that can capture personal information.

Recently Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency, a feature for iPhones and iPads that asks users in each app whether they want to allow third-party app tracking or not, with the vast majority of people opting-out. However, most smartphone users worldwide use Android, where no similar feature exists. In fact, advertisers are now spending more money on Android apparently because it’s now easier to track you there. That’s why we’re excited to announce the beta of App Tracking Protection for Android!

DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection for Android. BETA

App Tracking Protection for Android is free and blocks most trackers it identifies in other apps from third-party companies (those different from the company that owns each app). It is now built right into the DuckDuckGo Android app.

Protection from app trackers, even while you sleep.

How does it work?

After enabling App Tracking Protection, the DuckDuckGo app will detect when your Android apps are about to send data to third-party tracking companies found in our app tracker dataset, and block most of those requests. You can enjoy your apps as you normally would and App Tracking Protection will run in the background and continue to block the detected trackers throughout your apps, even while you sleep. We are continually working to identify and protect against new trackers, so you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the most up-to-date protection.

App Tracking Protection is not a virtual private network (VPN), though your device will recognize it as 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.

Directly from the DuckDuckGo app, you can see a real time view of App Tracking Protection blocking trackers as well as which tracking networks they tried to send data to. If you have notifications on, you’ll also get automatic summaries.

Daily App Tracking Protection summary

Join the private beta waitlist.

To get access to the beta of App Tracking Protection, join the private waitlist! We're letting new people in every week, so the sooner you join, the sooner you'll be protecting your app privacy.

You won’t need to share any personal information to join the private waitlist. Instead, you’ll secure your place in line with a date and time that exists solely on your device, and we’ll notify you when we’re ready for you to join.

  1. Download DuckDuckGo for Android (or update to the latest version).
  2. Open Settings > App Tracking Protection (in the Privacy section).
  3. Click “Join the Private Waitlist.”

We want to hear from you.

We decided to release App Tracking Protection in beta while we work on getting the experience just right. While it’s in beta, there are a small number of apps being excluded because they rely on tracking to work properly. A small number of trackers are also being excluded because they cause critical breakage like not being able to login to apps. We hope to reduce these lists even further over time.‌‌ Browsing apps and apps with prominent in-app browsers are also currently excluded by default because App Tracking Protection breaks them. For more private browsing, we suggest using our browsing app instead.

For general feedback or issues with the DuckDuckGo app: open Settings > Share Feedback (in the Other section). ‌‌‌‌If you run into issues with another app on your smartphone as a result of App Tracking Protection (e.g., videos don’t load properly, you cannot upload/send files, you experience download problems, the app feels sluggish, etc.), you can disable protection for just that app under Manage Protections for Your Apps. You'll then be asked to give details of the problem you experienced.

Disable protection and report issues for other apps

If you’re an Android user who has been waiting for a feature to block most hidden third-party trackers in your apps, the wait is almost over! With one download of the DuckDuckGo app you’ll soon be able to block app trackers via App Tracking Protection while also getting the other protections available from our all-in-one privacy app: private search, website protection, email protection, and more. These multiple layers of protection enable you to go about your daily online activities with more peace of mind, knowing you’re more protected.

Note: This blog post has been edited since initial publication to stay up to date with our evolving product offerings.

Dax the duck

Dax the duck

We're the Internet privacy company for everyone who's had enough of hidden online tracking and wants to take back their privacy now.

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Introducing App Tracking Protection for Android: The easiest way to block most trackers lurking in your apps
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