Home / Security / Want to block third-party trackers on your Android device? Try DuckDuckGo’s new feature

Want to block third-party trackers on your Android device? Try DuckDuckGo’s new feature

There are trackers everywhere. Their goal is to glom onto your network behavior and inform businesses of your: browsing habits, visited websites, time spent on websites, purchases, and clicks on advertisements. The result is a full-blown advertising profile for you. 

Thanks to trackers, I’ve experienced some rather disturbing behavior on mobile devices. I’ve witnessed someone just pause over an ad on Facebook, only to get that product pushed to their email account and even via SMS. 

It’s not just disturbing; it could be dangerous to the wellbeing of your data and privacy. Unfortunately, neither Android nor iOS is very successful when preventing trackers on a global scale. There is hope for you, however, hope that comes in the form of the DuckDuckGo web browser. 

For those that don’t know, DuckDuckGo started out as an alternative search engine, offering considerably more privacy than Google. The company then released its own web browser for both Android and iOS that focused on user privacy and online trust. By default, this browser collects no data nor shares any data with third parties. On top of that, DuckDuckGo as a straight-up web browser is quite good, with plenty of user customization options.

But there’s one particular feature that should prompt you to immediately make the switch from your default: App Tracking Protection.

At this time, you have to actually request an invitation to gain access to the feature. This will be the case until the feature is out of beta, so you must join the waitlist for the feature in-app (from Settings – Figure 1).

Figure 1

The App Tracking Protection Waitlist request page screenshot

Requesting to get onto the App Tracking feature waitlist in DuckDuckGo.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once you are accepted, you’ll receive an invite code that you can enter to enable the feature. 

After you’ve enabled the feature, you’ll discover DuckDuckGo reports all blocked tracking attempts in your Notification Shade. And you’ll also have access to a well-designed dashboard that displays all blocked trackers in the past seven days (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection Dashboard screenshot

No app is safe to track you with DuckDuckGo on the watch.

Image: Jack Wallen

Allowing applications to track you

You might find, over days or weeks, that certain applications no longer work as expected. This could be because an app requires trackers in order to function properly. If this is the case you have two options: uninstall the app (which is what I’d recommend — unless you absolutely need it) or allow that application to track you.

To allow an app to track you, locate it under RECENT ACTIVITY and tap the entry. In the resulting page (Figure 3), tap the ON/OFF slider until it’s in the OFF position. DuckDuckGo will no longer prevent trackers within that app.

Figure 3

Disabling App Tracking Protection for Slack in DuckDuckGo screenshot

Unless you absolutely need the app, I’d suggest uninstalling it to remain safe.

Image: Jack Wallen

The caveat to DuckDuckGo

Before I mention the lone caveat to using DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection, know that it’s worth using — even with this one issue. The problem is that (at least with the latest update) I’ve noticed DuckDuckGo seriously draining my Pixel 6 Pro battery (to the tune of 26% usage over a 14-hour period – Figure 4).

Figure 4

DuckDuckGo battery life report in Android 12 screenshot

Battery life takes a serious hit, thanks to DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection.

Image: Jack Wallen

When I disable App Tracking Protection, battery life returns to normal. However, this has been isolated to the latest update. Prior to this most recent release, battery life was hardly affected by the app. Hopefully, the developers of DuckDuckGo will fix this issue in the next release. Until then, you can at least request to join the private waitlist and, once accepted, make sure you’re installing a version newer than 5.130.0 (which is the version that is causing problems with my battery). 

If you take your privacy seriously and are looking to block as much app tracking as possible on your Android device, DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection is the best path I’ve found to success. Give it a try and see if you don’t find your apps less capable of tracking your online behavior.

Jack Wallen: Here’s how to…

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