DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser supports Microsoft data trackers despite privacy protections.
DuckDuckGo’s search-syndication agreement with Microsoft is at the root of an issue that led to data being tracked within the company’s private mobile web browser.
This week, it was discovered that DuckDuckGo’s mobile web browser transfers data to Microsoft properties when you visit certain websites.
Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo CEO, confirmed this. He is trying to protect the company’s reputation following the potentially disastrous discovery made via Twitter.
Is this a sign that privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo may not be as private as we believe?
Here’s what DuckDuckGo’s browser looked like, the response of its CEO, and why critics aren’t satisfied.
DuckDuckGo Browser Allows Microsoft Trackers
Jacob Edwards, a security researcher, posted evidence on Twitter showing that DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser transfers data to Microsoft’s LinkedIn.
This would be a regular web browser from any company. Data transfer to a third party wouldn’t be unusual.
This is becoming a scandal for DuckDuckGo, which claims it doesn’t track its users.
Privacy is at the heart of the company’s mission statement. “We don’t track you. DuckDuckGo’s homepage reads, “We don’t track you ever.”
Any track, therefore, violates DuckDuckGo’s mission statement.
This issue seems to be restricted to Microsoft properties. However, DuckDuckGo still promises a level of security that it isn’t delivering on.
DuckDuckGo CEO Responds To Criticism
Weinberg quickly responded to criticisms of his company by confirming that Microsoft trackers aren’t blocked on DuckDuckGo.
He attempts to minimize the situation, as it doesn’t affect DuckDuckGo search results.
In a statement to the Hacker News forum, he states that “This isn’t about search.”
Isn’t it, though?
This would not have been an issue if it was not for the search syndication agreement between DuckDuckGo, Microsoft.
It may not have any bearing on our search results, but a DuckDuckGo spokesperson told PCMag.com that it is intrinsically connected to the search contract between Microsoft and DuckDuckGo.
DuckDuckGo’s public relations tour does not end there. Any criticisms of DuckDuckGo on Twitter are met with Weinberg’s same copy-pasted reply.
“Hi, FYI, this isn’t about our search engine. We restrict Microsoft scripts within our browsers, including blocking third-party cookies. Reddit has a more detailed explanation.
Weinberg clarifies that DuckDuckGo does not promise anonymity for browsing beyond its search engine in the Reddit thread that he links to.
He also asserts that “nothing is guaranteed to protect 100%,” and DuckDuckGo is “the best option for mainstream users.”