DuckDuckGo’s (DDG) privacy-focused web browser permits Microsoft tracking scripts on third-party websites, which was revealed in May, and the firm now claims it will begin blocking them as well. DuckDuckGo’s browser previously featured third-party tracker loading protection that disabled scripts embedded on webpages from Facebook, Google, and others, but Microsoft’s scripts from the Bing and LinkedIn domains (but not its third-party cookies) were exempt until now.
A security researcher named Zach Edwards pointed out the exclusion, which he apparently discovered when auditing the browser’s privacy claims, and noted that it is particularly strange given that Microsoft is the partner that delivers ads in DDG’s search engine (while promising not to use that data to create a monitored profile of users to target ads, instead relying on context to decide which ones it should show).
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabe Weinberg said at the time that it was due to a search syndication deal with Microsoft and that further information on third-party tracker preventions would be released soon. Some seized on DuckDuckGo’s own statements that “tracking is tracking,” a term the business used against Google’s cookie-replacing “privacy sandbox” ad technology.
“I’ve heard from many users and recognize that we didn’t achieve their expectations surrounding one of our browser’s online tracking safeguards,” Weinberg says in a blog post. DuckDuckGo promises to be more upfront about which trackers its browser and add-ons protect users against, making tracker blocklists public and providing users with more information on how tracking safeguards work through a new help page.”
Scripts for bat.bing.com that load instantly after a user clicks on one of DDG’s search advertisements, which it claims are utilized on advertisers’ sites to analyze ad performance, will not be blocked by default when the modifications go into effect this week. However, according to the blog post, DuckDuckGo’s third-party tracker loading protection would prevent Microsoft’s scripts from being loaded “in all other scenarios.” Users may prevent this, according to Weinberg, by blocking advertisements in the DuckDuckGo search settings. DuckDuckGo, like several other firms, claims it’s working on non-profiling technology to replace the scripts, but it’s not ready yet.
DuckDuckGo’s criticism continues to center on Google’s advertising profiles and all the data they tend to suck up from its many businesses, which is understandable given that the majority of Alphabet’s $257 billion revenue grab in 2021 came from advertising.
However, there are other reasons to keep a watch on Microsoft’s advertising activities. It generates billions of dollars from online advertising in addition to its arrangement to fund Netflix’s ad-supported streaming service. It has created its own cross-platform ad-tech behemoth capable of reaching over 1 billion consumers. If DuckDuckGo guarantees its customers better overall security than other browsers, it must keep demonstrating it, and greater openness will only help.