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

ByLance T. Lee

Jul 19, 2022

There are trackers everywhere. Their goal is to reflect your behavior on the network and inform companies about your browsing habits, websites visited, time spent on websites, purchases and clicks on advertisements. The result is a complete advertising profile for you.

Thanks to trackers, I have seen some rather disturbing behavior on mobile devices. I saw someone pause on an ad on Facebook, only to have this product sent to their email account and even texted.

It’s not just disturbing; it could be dangerous for the well-being of your data and privacy. Unfortunately, neither Android nor iOS succeeds in 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 unaware, DuckDuckGo started out as an alternative search engine, offering considerably more privacy than Google. The company then launched its own web browser for Android and iOS, focusing on user privacy and online trust. By default, this browser does not collect any data or share any data with third parties. Besides that, DuckDuckGo as a simple web browser is quite good with lots of user customization options.

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

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

Figure 1

Screenshot of the Application Tracking Protection waitlist request page

Request to join the application tracking feature waitlist in DuckDuckGo.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once accepted, you will receive an invite code which you can enter to activate the feature.

After enabling the feature, you will find that DuckDuckGo reports all blocked tracking attempts in your notification shade. And you will also have access to a well-designed dashboard that displays all blocked trackers in the last seven days (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Screenshot of the DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection Dashboard

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

Image: Jack Wallen

Allow apps to track you

You may find, over days or weeks, that some apps no longer work as expected. This may be because an app requires trackers to work properly. If so, you have two options: uninstall the app (which I would recommend unless you absolutely need to) or allow that app to track you.

To allow an app to follow you, locate it under RECENT ACTIVITY and tap the enter. In the resulting page (figure 3), press the ON/OFF slider until it is in the OFF position. DuckDuckGo will no longer block trackers in this app.

figure 3

Screenshot of disabling app tracking protection for Slack in DuckDuckGo

Unless you absolutely need the app, I suggest uninstalling it to stay safe.

Image: Jack Wallen

The caveat to DuckDuckGo

Before I mention the one caveat about using DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection, know that it’s worth using even with this problem alone. The problem is that (at least with the latest update) I noticed that DuckDuckGo was seriously draining my Pixel 6 Pro’s 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 turn off app tracking protection, the battery life returns to normal. However, this has been isolated in the latest update. Prior to this most recent version, battery life was barely affected by the app. Hope DuckDuckGo developers will fix this issue in the next version. Until then, you can at least request to join the private waitlist, and once accepted, make sure you install a newer version than 5.130.0 (which is the version causing issues with my battery).

If you take your privacy seriously and are looking to block app tracking as much as possible on your Android device, DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection is the best path I have found to success. Give it a try and see if you find your apps less able to track your online behavior.

Jack Wallen: Here’s how…


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