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posted by hubie on Saturday November 19, @08:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the you-shall-not-pass dept.

The easy to use App Track Protection feature will block third party companies snooping in your apps:

DuckDuckGo released a new privacy tool for Android Wednesday that will help protect you from the companies harvesting personal data through your apps. The new App Tracking Protection feature, now available in beta in the DuckDuckGo for Android app, will let users take advantage of some of the privacy protections already enjoyed by iPhone users.

The company's App Tracking Protection tool doesn't just block the data collection, it also gives you a firsthand look at what information apps are trying to harvest and where they're trying to send it. DuckDuckGo spent the last year testing the feature with real users. The feature is easy to use. All you have to do is install the DuckDuckGo app, open Settings, select "App Tracking Protection," and follow the onscreen instructions.

[...] App Tracking Protection runs in the background of your day-to-day phone use, but if you open it up, the DuckDuckGo app gives you a real time summary of the attempts to collect your data. The numbers will be staggering if you aren't familiar with the inner workings of tech products.

According to DuckDuckGo, the average Android user has about 35 apps on their phone. In their tests, a phone with 35 apps on it will send about 1,000-2,000 packets of tracking data to over 70 different tracking companies every day—but that number can be far worse depending on which apps you use.

[...] Apple introduced a similarly named privacy setting last year called App Tracking Transparency. The setting, which caused an earthquake in the tech industry (Meta said the setting cost it $10 billion in a year), gave iPhone users some of best, easy-to-use privacy protection available to date. But Android doesn't offer anything similar built-in to the operating system. There are a number of other tracker protection tools Android users can install, but DuckDuckGo's offering is free and built by a company with a history of protecting users' privacy.

In fact, DuckDuckGo's privacy tool is even more powerful than Apple's offering in some ways. Apple's App Tracking Transparency takes a policy-based approach, telling apps they're not allows to track users and making it impossible to collect an ID number used for adverting. DuckDuckGo's tool applies more broadly; rather than protecting certain data points, it blocks communication with many third parties altogether, no matter what kind of data is involved.

"We feel that its necessary to block the requests of these trackers outright to stop that data being collected," Dolanjski said. The company chose to bring the feature to Android first because users don't have any meaningful built-in protection. "Apart from Google introducing additional controls in the future, you're not going to be able the data collection any other way," he said. DuckDuckGo is considering adding the feature to its iPhone app in the future.

[Ed: Anyone try it yet? --hubie]


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bradley13 on Saturday November 19, @08:52AM (2 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Saturday November 19, @08:52AM (#1280474) Homepage Journal

    I downloaded the app for a quick look. It looks like they are redirecting all of your web traffic through a VPN, presumably so they can block trackers via DNS (piHole style).

    I guess it's a question of how much you trust DDG. Do you really want to send them all your web traffic? Given that I run my own VPN with my own piHole, the answer is "no".

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Immerman on Saturday November 19, @03:19PM (1 child)

      by Immerman (3985) on Saturday November 19, @03:19PM (#1280506)

      Hmm, it's not mentioned in this article, maybe I saw it on the green site?

      At any rate, they said it was using a local VPN, which if it means what the words seem to say would suggest that the "VPN" never actually leaves your phone, just does the blocking before sending the rest on its way. Possibly implemented as a VPN rather than the traditional methods for better integration?

      Then again, a search for local VPN turn up mostly references to what seems to be an actual VPN named "Local VPN", so I wouldn't want to make any definite claims without further investigation. Should be easy to confirm by sniffing the actual traffic leaving your phone.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, @03:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, @03:37PM (#1280507)

        yes netguard android firewall uses same method, create local vpn which forces other apps to use it, allowing it to inspect all traffic.

  • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Saturday November 19, @09:09AM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Saturday November 19, @09:09AM (#1280476) Homepage

    The creator of the Names Database (a massive data harvesting scheme as its name suggests) wants to sell you a tool to protect your data? Caveat emptor.

    The only way I imagine this working is either the app obtains root access to your device or it uses APIs already exposed by Android OS (meaning all the controls and data are already there, just perhaps not provided in convenient end user UI form). Which changes the nuance of boast here by quite a bit.

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  • (Score: 2) by EJ on Saturday November 19, @11:02AM

    by EJ (2452) on Saturday November 19, @11:02AM (#1280480)

    So...no privacy then? [malwarebytes.com]

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Frosty Piss on Saturday November 19, @11:39AM

    by Frosty Piss (4971) on Saturday November 19, @11:39AM (#1280481)
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