Privacy-oriented search company DuckDuckGo announced that its App Tracking Protection service for Android is now available in public beta, meaning anyone with an Android phone can use it.
The shift comes roughly a year after DuckDuckGo launched App Tracking Protection in a limited beta. Previously, people wanting to try out the service needed to join a private waitlist for the feature (although in my experience, the wait wasn’t very long).
Since the limited beta launch, DuckDuckGo says it added new features, like the ability to see what personal data trackers try to collect before DuckDuckGo blocks them. The company says it also improved performance, reduced the number of app exclusions, and made the blocklist publicly available.
Since I’ve written at length about App Tracking Protection before, I’ll keep it brief here. The service works by using Android’s built-in VPN functionality to filter network traffic and block trackers from apps. The process happens entirely on-device and doesn’t route data through DuckDuckGo’s servers.
A common comparison is to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, although there are some fundamental differences. Namely, DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection actually blocks trackers, while Apple’s system only blocks access to a user’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Reports have detailed how apps can bypass App Tracking Transparency and perform tracking without using the IDFA. Moreover, Apple’s own apps don’t adhere to anti-tracking settings.
If you haven’t tried out App Tracking Protection yet, I’d recommend giving it a go. It’s improved over the last few months and is now easier than ever to try out. Plus, it’s free — all you need is DuckDuckGo’s app. You can learn more about App Tracking Protection here.