DuckDuckGo is known for its privacy-centric commitment to iOS, Android, browser users and soon with its own Mac app. Now a report is reviewing the company’s privacy focus due to a search agreement with Microsoft that allowed the Redmond-based company to continue tracking users in the browser.
As reported by computer beepsSecurity researcher Zach Edwards posted on Twitter that “DuckDuckGo blocked Google and Facebook trackers, but allowed Microsoft trackers to continue.” The company states that “this problem occurs in browsers and only affects non-DuckDuckGo websites”.
Tests showed that the browser allowed trackers related to Bing and LinkedIn domains while blocking all other trackers. Edward’s thread caught the attention of Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGOstating that the browser intentionally allows third-party Microsoft tracker websites due to a search engine syndication agreement with Redmond.
When you load our search results, you are completely anonymous, including ads. For ads, we’ve worked with Microsoft to protect ad clicks. On our public ad page: “Microsoft Advertising does not attribute your ad-clicking behavior to any user profile.” For blocking non-search trackers (e.g. in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. Unfortunately, our Microsoft Search Syndication Agreement prevents us from doing more with Microsoft proprietary properties. However, we have been working on it continuously and expect to do more soon.
While it doesn’t seem like a big deal since users aren’t technically tracked, DuckDuckGo’s focus on privacy has kept the company’s vision in check. In the same vein, Apple promises to put privacy first in its ecosystem, and it’s very controversial when you hear reports of third-party companies eavesdropping on HomePod requests. Or the company puts everything on data protection or not.
Following the Bleeping Computer story, DuckDuckGo sent a statement to the publication and 9to5Mac say that with the Microsoft partnership it becomes clearer and further enhances users’ right to privacy:
“We’ve always been very careful never to promise anonymity while browsing, which frankly isn’t possible given how quickly trackers are changing the way they work to bypass protections and the tools we currently offer. When most other browsers on the market talk about tracking protection, they’re usually referring to third-party cookie protection and fingerprint protection, and our browsers for iOS, Android, and our new Mac beta impose these restrictions on third-party tracking scripts , including those from Microsoft.
What we’re talking about here is comprehensive protection that most browsers don’t even attempt – that is, blocking third-party tracking scripts before they load on third-party websites. Because we do this where we can, users still get significantly more privacy with DuckDuckGo than with Safari, Firefox, and other browsers. This blog post we published breaks down the real benefits that users reap from this approach, like faster load times (46% average drop) and less data transferred (34% average drop). Our goal has always been to provide the greatest possible privacy in a download, by default without complicated settings.”
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