iOS, Apple’s operating system for iPhones, has had a feature since the release of iOS 14.5 that allows the users to disable developers and apps from tracking their usage and stop them from showing ads based on their interest. However, the feature has been exclusive to iOS devices only. After Apple introduced this feature, Google was also said to be working on a “less-stringent” version of App Tracking Transparency for Android. With Android 12, Google made it more difficult for apps to collect data, but the tool is only available for Android 12 smartphones.
Privacy-focused search engine and browser-maker app developer DuckDuckGo has now released a tool that claims to bring Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to all Android smartphones. The tool, called App Tracking Protection, claims to offer “more protection” from third-party trackers on Android. The tool was first spotted by Wired.
Over 96% of the popular free Android apps contained hidden third-party trackers, says DuckDuckGo
The tool comes in-built as a part of the DuckDuckGo’s privacy browser app. The company says that even though the tool is a part of the browser, it works across all the apps. The tool starts a background service. It recognizes when an app is about to send the data to a third-party tracker, and then blocks it.
DuckDuckGo says that its version of App Tracking Transparency is better than Apple’s version. In a statement to The Verge, vice president of communications at DuckDuckGo, Kamyl Bazbaz, said that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool “only restricts direct access to a user’s IDFA, the rest is essentially an honor system, where Apple is asking developers to respect user choice not to track but isn’t actually blocking any third party trackers itself. App Tracking Protection blocks those third-party trackers directly, making the tool more powerful than what’s available on iOS.”
In addition, the company also revealed some * shocking * information about app tracking on Android. The company says that nearly 96% of free apps on Android send data to third-party trackers. It also says that 87% of these apps send user data to Google, while 68% send data to Facebook.
The tool is currently available in beta. To use the tool, you need to download and install the DuckDuckGo app from the Google Play Store. After downloading the app, head over to the “Settings” of the app and then look for “App Tracking Protection” in the “Privacy” section. In this section, you should be able to see a “Join the Private Waitlist” option. The company says that it will gradually start introducing the App Tracking Protection feature to more people every week, so you could’ve to wait until the feature is available on your device.
The company says that it is “continually working” to make the tracking service better and better. The company also clarifies that its App TrackingProtection tool isn’t a virtual private network (VPN), although your device might say so according to DuckDuckGo. It says that “it is because App Tracking Protection uses a local ‘VPN connection’ which means that it works its magic right on your smartphone. However, App Tracking Protection is different from VPNs because it never routes app data through an external server.”