Privacy Issues with DuckDuckGo you didn’t know about

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that aims to protect users’ privacy. An amazing fact is that not all trackers are blocked by DuckDuckGo, a search engine focused on user privacy. This privacy hole was revealed by a researcher only after DuckDuckGo acknowledged it.

When you visit a site that has Microsoft trackers embedded in it, then the search engine will not block these trackers. The reason for this is their deal with Microsoft. 

DuckDuckGo’s partnership with Microsoft

The company has a partnership with Microsoft in the form of a confidential search agreement. As a result, DuckDuckGo does not block all trackers from Microsoft. The search engine gets its results from Bing. At this point, if you click on an ad displayed by Microsoft, your IP address gets revealed to Microsoft Advertising Service. 

This is stated by DuckDuckGo on its website and in the search engine itself. But the extent of the company’s partnership with Microsoft was revealed by a security researcher with the Twitter ID @thezedwards. He discovered that the mobile browser of DuckDuckGo does not block trackers from Microsoft on 3rd party websites like Workplace.com (a Facebook company).

The company’s response

When the issue was reported on Twitter, DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg got into damage control mode. He put out tweets to explain the company’s position. The following is what he said:

· The company blocks most 3rd third-party trackers. This is for non-search tracker blocking.

· Since they had a search syndication agreement with Microsoft, they could not do more when it came to Microsoft properties. 

· He said the company is hoping to do more and pushing continuously. 

· He mentioned that behind the scene work was in progress with the company trying to change Microsoft’s requirements. DuckDuckGo had a confidentiality clause in their agreement because of which details could not be revealed.

· Weinberg promised that they would soon have an update that would increase the 3rd party Microsoft protection. 

· In response to a tweet, he said that DuckDuckGo could block 3rd party Microsoft cookies on non-Microsoft domains. But they could not go beyond that, and they were working to change this.

DuckDuckGo’s privacy policy regarding Microsoft Ads is quite strict. The problem here, however, is that the company doesn’t explain how it can use the data it gets from third-party trackers. This is definitely a concern. It is possible that the problem is exaggerated. Microsoft may also create targeted advertising profiles based on user activity on DuckDuckGo.

The problem here is that it is not known what the reality is. The confidentiality provision in the agreement prevents these facts from being revealed. 

The road ahead

The company says it is working tirelessly to resolve the issue. Their goal is to try to provide more protection to users in the form of an update. The problem here is why the issue has come out now. DuckDuckGo has for long proclaimed itself to be completely focused on privacy protection.

In fact, the company’s ads and marketing campaigns revolved around how transparency and privacy were the main benefits it offered. When Microsoft gets an exception by the company, then the claims of transparency and privacy are dented. The fact that users were not made aware of it is a matter of concern.

It is now apparent that DuckDuckGo does not offer the levels of privacy that it promised and what users expected. The fact remains that the internet runs on money and this money comes from user data. Your data is valuable, which is why companies like Microsoft try to collect the data. 

After all the hue and cry, DuckDuckGo has come out with some specific assurances. They promise that:

· The 3rd party tracking scripts that are blocked would now include Microsoft’s scripts.

· These changes would be in the form of an update. It would be applicable for browsing apps as well as browser extensions. 

· All trackers would be blocked, except those needed for the website to work properly.

While this is a good development, it remains to be seen how effective it would be in practice. People are now waiting for the update, so they determine if DuckDuckGo lives up to its promise of offering the best privacy.

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