This is a pervasive issue: DuckDuckGo says that “over 96% of the popular free Android apps we tested (based on AndroidRank.org rankings) contained hidden third-party trackers,” with 87% of them sending data to Google and 68% sending data to Facebook. Trackers can send information to other companies, too, many of which the average person has probably never heard of.
“Across all your apps, your personal data is being sent to dozens of third-party companies, thousands of times per week,” the company says. “This data enables tracking networks like Facebook and Google to create even more detailed digital profiles on you. With those profiles, tracking networks can manipulate what you see online, target you with ads based on your behavior, and even sell your data to other companies like data brokers, advertisers, and governments.”
App Tracking Protection will be built into DuckDuckGo’s existing Android app, which will allow users to view information about what trackers the feature has blocked, and in what apps, so they can have more insight into how certain developers are treating their information. People can also receive notifications containing summaries of App Tracking Protection’s activity if they so desire.
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DuckDuckGo says it’s releasing App Tracking Protection in a private beta so it can fine-tune the experience. Blocking trackers can lead to problems in certain software, so the company has excluded some apps from App Tracking Protection, and it says people who encounter issues in other applications can disable the feature. (Ideally while notifying the company of the problem.) Nathaniel Mott is a writer and editor who has contributed to The Guardian, Tom’s Hardware, and several other publications in varying capacities since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter: @nathanielmott.