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The DuckDuckGo Browser Is Not As Private As You May Think — Here’s Why

DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser contains Microsoft trackers, according to a security audit.

DuckDuckGo is facing backlash after a security researcher discovered that its mobile browser allows Microsoft trackers to be used on third-party websites.

Aside from its privacy-focused search engine, the company also produces a mobile browser for Android and iOS that supports HTTPS-always encryption, third-party cookie blocking, and tracker blocking.

Security researcher Zach Edwards discovered that DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser allows Microsoft trackers while blocking Google and Facebook trackers, according to BleepingComputer (opens in new tab). Additional testing revealed that the company’s mobile browser allows Bing and LinkedIn trackers while blocking trackers from other sites.

Private browsing but less private searching

DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg responded to Edwards’ thread on Twitter by confirming that, due to a search syndication agreement with the software giant, its browser only allows Microsoft trackers on third-party sites. Weinberg elaborated on the situation in a tweet (opens in new tab), saying:

“We block most third-party trackers for non-search tracker blocking (e.g., in our browser).” Unfortunately, due to our Microsoft search syndication agreement, we are unable to do more with Microsoft-owned properties. However, we have been consistently pushing and expect to do so in the near future.”

While DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser accepts Microsoft trackers, the same cannot be said for its search engine, which earns money from private advertisements based on search results pages viewed by its users.

The news that its mobile browser includes Microsoft trackers comes at a particularly bad time for DuckDuckGo, as the company recently chastised Google for its new Topics and FLEDGE tracking methods in a tweet. Because DuckDuckGo’s desktop browser is currently only available for Mac, the company recommended that users install its Privacy Essentials Chrome extension (opens in a new tab) to block Topics and Fledge when using Google Chrome.

Agreement on search syndication modification

Weinberg contacted BleepingComputer and explained that DuckDuckGo still provides “significantly more privacy protection” than Safari, Firefox, and other browsers.

To address the issue with Microsoft’s trackers in its mobile browser, the company is collaborating with the software giant to modify its search syndication agreement. At the same time, DuckDuckGo intends to update its app store descriptions to make the use of Microsoft trackers for third-party sites more transparent.

Alternatives to DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser to Consider

If you want a private browser for Android and iOS but are put off by DuckDuckGo’s inclusion of Microsoft trackers in its mobile browser, there are several other options among the best Android browsers to consider.

Mozilla Firefox for mobile can block over 2000 trackers, and its default private browsing mode automatically deletes your history and cookies after you close all windows. Passwords, tabs, history, and bookmarks can also be synced across devices.

Brave is yet another privacy-focused browser that can block trackers and unnecessary ads while also enabling anonymous browsing via Tor. You can, however, earn rewards by watching Brave’s privacy-protecting advertisements.

If DuckDuckGo has become your preferred search engine, keep in mind that you can use the company’s private search engine on any browser, not just DuckDuckGo Private Browser.

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