DuckDuckGo has become the preferred alternative for those who value privacy. However, a recent discovery seems to suggest that the service has never been as private as we were led to believe.
The DuckDuckGo browser allows Microsoft services, such as Linkedin or Bing, to collect data about users and does not block their trackers — at the same time, the browser promises users special privacy and blocks advertising trackers.
Zack Edwards, developer and co-founder of web analytics company Victory Medium, revealed on Twitter that he had found during an audit of the DuckDuckGo browser for iOS and Android that it did not block Linkedin or Bing trackers, as well as other Microsoft sites, although the developers position this project as protected from surveillance.
In response, the founder and head of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, explained that the browser blocks most third-party trackers, but the service has a syndication agreement with Microsoft.
As per the agreement, the DuckDuckGo browser provides Microsoft with user IP data and information from the browser identifier (version, language, OS) for subsequent displaying contextual advertising to the user on third-party sites. It is explicitly described on the official website.
This statement caused a real uproar on Hacker News, where Weinberg tried to defend the company, talked a lot about transparency and tried to explain the essence of DuckDuckGo’s agreements with Microsoft. In particular, Weinberg made it clear that these restrictions only apply to the DuckDuckGo browser and do not affect the company’s search engine.
Weinberg explained that the company is working on adjusting the agreement with Microsoft to remove the current exclusionary factors in relation to resources owned by Microsoft.
In addition to the Email Protection service, DuckDuckGo offers users a native privacy-focused browser for iOS and Android that supports many security features, including HTTPS encryption, third-party cookie blocking, and tracker blocking.