Some trackers will still be allowed through to measure ad conversions
DuckDuckGo is making good on a promise to correct a major faux pas on its mission to further privacy on the web. Back in May, researchers caught the company allowing Microsoft’s ad and analytics trackers through its mobile browsers and desktop browser extensions while blocking others. It was an act of hypocrisy, but also one of necessity: DuckDuckGo signed on Microsoft as its primary supplier of results for its search engine and one of the stipulations in their contract required the passthrough of trackers from Bing and LinkedIn in DuckDuckGo products. It appears now, though, that the contract has changed. A lot more has, too.
The company says on its corporate blog (via BleepingComputer) that its Third-Party Tracker Loading Protection feature is
no longer prohibited from blocking blocking Microsoft’s tracking scripts in more instances. While they are already blocked in most cases and will be blocked in even more, users who click on Microsoft-served ads through a DuckDuckGo Search results page may see some trackers originating from bat.bing.com if they are embedded in the site they are visiting. Microsoft says it uses the data to tally conversions from clicks to product purchases and that it doesn’t build user profiles, dumping the data in 7 days. DuckDuckGo also continues to say that it does not include Microsoft tracking scripts in its products, a condition that has always been in place.
There’s no reasonable expectation of complete privacy when someone browses the web, so the company is also taking the opportunity to announce that it has updated the Privacy Dashboard feature on its browsers and extensions to include logs for which third-party tracker requests were approved and denied and for what reasons, if any apply. The company is also making a list of its blocked trackers (including the latest ones from the 21 URLs that originate with Microsoft) public through a GitHub repository and that it will shortly open up the code to generate a blocklist for Tracker Radar.
Furthermore, it has opened up a new section in its Help pages that lists which trackers are getting blocked for which product — split between the browser apps for Android, iOS/iPadOS, and Mac, and the extensions for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera , and Safari. Different products get different blocking support due to differences in their operating system’s framework.
In the future, DuckDuckGo hopes to implement an ad conversion tracking protocol that will keep data sharing to an absolute minimum while still giving marketers the core information they need.
UPDATE: 2022/08/07 16:23 EST BY JULES WANG
Corrections and clarifications
DuckDuckGo reached out to Android Police to offer some corrections and more context to our story as it was written.
- Tracker Radar is the name of the feature that crawls the internet to identify trackers. The 3rd-Party Tracker Loading Protection feature actually executes script blockages. We mistakenly referred to Tracker Radar as the feature that blocks scripts from running.
- Prior to these announced changes, DuckDuckGo had been blocking many instances of Microsoft’s trackers — these often came from sites using tag managers like the one provided through Google Analytics to launch bundles of scripts from different sources. The 3PTLP feature already blocks Google Tag Manager. The company says it only recorded a 0.25% increase in Microsoft script stoppages after it implemented the changes.
- We’ve also included more context about when Microsoft’s bat.bing.com trackers load in the story.
- The company says users can disable ads in DuckDuckGo Search’s settings.
We unreservedly apologize to DuckDuckGo and our readers and acknowledge the errors.