microsoft, android, duckduckgo’s browser can’t block microsoft tracking scripts

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DuckDuckGo is best known as a private search engine, but the company also has a private web browser for mobile devices (with a desktop version on the way). However, the browser is currently in hot water, after a security researcher discovered an exception for Microsoft trackers.

The main feature of DuckDuckGo Browser is that it blocks tracking scripts and most online advertising, in an effort to keep as few servers from collecting data about your behavior as possible. Tracking protection is never 100% effective, since it relies on people to keep adding sites and domains to blocklists (like NoTracking). However, DuckDuckGo Browser has a defined exception for Microsoft-owned ad networks and tracking scripts, allowing them to load even when they are known to compromise privacy.

As our sister site reported yesterday, Zach Edwards first pointed out the exception in a series of tweets, after noticing DuckDuckGo on iPhone and Android wasn’t blocking LinkedIn and Bing advertisements on Facebook’s Workplace site.

You can capture data within the DuckDuckGo so-called private browser on a website like Facebook's https://t.co/u8W44qvsqF and you'll see that DDG does NOT stop data flows to Microsoft's Linkedin domains or their Bing advertising domains.

iOS + Android proof:
👀🫥😮‍💨🤡⛈️⚖️💸💸💸 pic.twitter.com/u3Q30KIs7e

— ℨ𝔞𝔠𝔥 𝔈𝔡𝔴𝔞𝔯𝔡𝔰 (@thezedwards) May 23, 2022

DuckDuckGo’s CEO and founder, Gabriel Weinberg, replied with his own series of tweets. “Most all of our other protections also apply to MSFT-owned properties as well, he said, “This is just about non-DuckDuckGo and non-Microsoft sites, where our search syndication agreement prevents us from stopping Microsoft-owned scripts from loading, though we can still apply protections post-load (like 3rd party cookie blocking). We are also working to change that. I understand this is confusing because a search syndication contract is preventing us from doing a non-search thing. That’s because our product bundles many privacy protections, and this is a distribution requirement imposed on us as part of search (again, working on it though).”

DuckDuckGo says it uses over 400 sources for search engine results, including the company’s own web crawler, but typical link results are sourced “most commonly from Bing.” According to Weinberg, DuckDuckGo’s ability to use Bing search results depends on a carved-out exception for Microsoft’s ads in the mobile browser.

Private search and browsing is DuckDuckGo’s main claim to fame, so understandably, the news hasn’t gone over well with some long-time fans. The company also hasn’t informed its users about the limitation at all — although its CEO has been doing damage control on Twitter and other platforms, the official DuckDuckGo social media accounts and blog haven’t said anything about the discovery.

Keyword: DuckDuckGo’s Browser Can’t Block Microsoft Tracking Scripts

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