Only one name comes to mind when it comes to privacy-friendly search engines: DuckDuckGo. As narrow as it is, the company has managed to spin its success in other directions, including a privacy-focused browser for Android and iOS that is reportedly devoid of trackers. According to a new revelation, DuckDuckGo’s cooperation with Microsoft may have lost the company its position as a “no tracking” provider.
As detailed by Bleeping Computer, privacy researcher Zach Edward recently discovered that, while DuckDuckGo’s browser stopped sites like Facebook and Google from using trackers to scrape user data, Microsoft’s websites — including LinkedIn and Bing — bypassed this blockade entirely. It goes against the search engine’s biggest selling point, and more specifically, undermines the entire reason the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser exists.
To his credit, CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg quickly admitted that the browser does, in fact, allow Microsoft to evade its tracking filters within the browser, and that this is done on purpose. According to Weinberg, it all comes down to the two firms’ search syndication agreement, which allows DuckDuckGo to use Bing results in its search results. It’s the most important component of a collection of over 400 sources, which includes Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha. Weinberg further highlighted that this agreement only applies to the browser and not the search engine.
Still, it’s difficult to justify when the app’s main selling point — literally the first line of its Play Store listing — is to disable trackers on the user’s behalf. Following Edward’s discovery on Twitter two days ago, Weinberg stated that the company was working with Microsoft to remove this specific stipulation from the contract, as well as offering a clarification update to the Play Store and App Store listings. The CEO also issued a statement to Bleeping Computer, emphasizing that, while its browser isn’t flawless, it is still significantly more private than the competitors, with faster load speeds. As Weinberg points out, DuckDuckGo’s browser has never guaranteed complete anonymity. Hopefully, this is an opportunity for the organization to improve.