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DuckDuckGo giving Android users the app tracking protection Google won’t

The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo browser app is launching a new feature on Android that will seek to prevent third-party companies tracking users within Android apps that aren’t their own.

The feature, which is launching in private beta within the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, is described by the company as “the easiest way to block trackers lurking in your apps.”

The app tracking protection sounds similar to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency opt-out feature, which launched last year in iOS 14.5, but DuckDuckGo says its wants to offer greater protection than Apple’s tool. No such feature currently exists within Android.

While it exists within the browser app, it can still manage to police tracking activity across other apps installed upon your phone. Users opting into the beta will regularly be informed of how many tracking requests have been wiped out.

“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,” the company said in a blog post explaining the reason for the feature.

In explaining how the feature works the company says it will take action to block requests when Android apps attempt to send data to the third-parties seeking it.

“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,” the company writes.

DuckDuckGo says it uses a local VPN connection which keeps everything on your smartphone without routing the data through an external server. You can see how it works in the gif below.

In order to join the waitlist for the beta, the company says:

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

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