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 AndroidRank.org 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.
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
If you’re an Android user who has been waiting for a feature to block hidden third-party trackers in your apps, the wait is almost over. DuckDuckGo is introducing App Tracking Protection for Android for free which will block trackers identified in other apps from third-party companies (those different from the company that owns each app).
The App Tracking Protection is still in beta while DuckDuckGo work on getting the user experience just right. With one download of the DuckDuckGo app you’ll soon be able to block app trackers detected by App Tracking Protection. However while in beta, there are a small number of apps being excluded because they rely on tracking to work properly. DuckDuckGo hopes to reduce this list even further over time which will enable you to go about your daily online activities with more peace of mind,.
How it works
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 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 will 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.
How to join the private beta waitlist
To get access to the beta version of App Tracking Protection, join the private waitlist! DuckDuckGo is letting new people in every week, so the sooner you join, the sooner you’ll be protecting your app privacy. DuckDuckGo won’t need you to share any of your 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 they will notify you when they are ready for you to join.
- Download DuckDuckGo for Android (or update to the latest version).
- Open Settings > App Tracking Protection (in the Privacy section).
- Click “Join the Private Waitlist.”