DuckDuckGo (DDG) has opened its App Tracking Protection beta to all Android users, providing some of the most capable privacy protection.
App Tracking Protection acts as a local VPN on an Android device. Rather than creating a network connection, like a typical VPN, the feature acts as a VPN only in the sense that it forces all apps to route their network requests through it. This allows App Tracking Protection to block tracking attempts, even giving users a report of how many times an app has tried tracking them.
DDG is quick to point out, however, that no data is sent to the company:
App Tracking Protection uses a local “VPN connection,” which means that it works its magic right on your smartphone and without sending app data to DuckDuckGo or other remote servers. That is, App Tracking Protection does not route your app data through external companies (including ours).
The need for App Tracking Protection quickly becomes apparent when considering the sheer volume of tracking users are subjected to:
The average Android user has 35 apps on their phone. Through our testing, we’ve found that a phone with 35 apps can experience between 1,000-2,000 tracking attempts every day and contact 70+ different tracking companies.
At WPN, we have been using DDG’s App Tracking Protection since it was in closed beta and have been consistently impressed with the results. In fact, this writer will not run an Android-based phone without App Tracking Protection installed.
Many, including DDG, will compare App Tracking Protection to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) iOS feature. In some ways, however, DDG’s solution is superior. Some of the largest app makers, and some of the most egregious privacy abusers, have been bypassing ATT. It seems that Apple may even be turning a blind eye to their activity because of how big they are.
In contrast, DDG’s solution gives the users true control. There are some apps for which App Tracking Protection is disabled by default since there are known issues. However, the user has the option to enable protection for those apps anyway and deal with any compatibility issues.
In short, we can’t recommend App Tracking Protection enough. ALL Android users should immediately download the DuckDuckGo app and enable the feature in Settings.