If you’re tired of the apps on your Android device doggedly tracking every move you make even after opting out, then good news. On Thursday, the privacy pros at DuckDuckGo announced a new feature meant to kneecap the invasive trackers and third-party players that might come bundled with the apps they download.
This new “App Tracking Protection for Android,” feature is being rolled out in beta as part of the company’s standalone privacy-centric mobile browser. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because Apple rolled out a similar feature—dubbed “App Tracking Transparency,” or ATT—onto its iOS devices this past April. Since then, we’ve seen countless iPhone owners opt out of letting apps track their activity for ad-targeting purposes. Meanwhile, companies like Facebook and Google, whose massive revenues largely depend on that tracking, have hemorrhaged billions of dollars since the feature first arrived.
The closest thing Google’s offered Android users so far came back in June, when the company announced it would let Android 12 owners opt out of personalized ads on their devices starting at the end of this year. Even when it rolls out, though, countless critics have already pointed out that Google’s take on the feature barely offers the same level of protection that Apple’s giving its users, which is why DuckDuckGo is stepping up to the plate.
I’m a die-hard iPhone user, so I couldn’t try out this new tool for myself—but according to the company’s blog post, it seems pretty easy to use. You can sign up for the waitlist in the settings of DuckDuckGo’s app, and once you’re approved, you can use that same settings menu to flip the feature on or off. Once it’s running in the background, the feature pretty much acts like a firewall between any app on your Android device and the shady third parties that might be trying to siphon data from them. There’s even an option to see a real-time feed of aaaaalllll the trackers trying (and failing) to ping these apps for your personal details.
It’s worth noting that this tool isn’t a silver bullet for your privacy woes, though. DuckDuckGo can only shield your device from the trackers that the company is already keeping tabs on as part of its tracker database project (though the announcement notes that DuckDuckGo is “continually working to identify and protect against new trackers” that aren’t yet on the list). And as Wired pointed out, the feature doesn’t shield every app—trackers will still follow you across mobile games and browsers, in particular. But if you’re frustrated by Google’s endless flubs when it comes to protecting users’ privacy and want to fight back, downloading this tool is a good place to start.
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