Privacy-minded web browser DuckDuckGo has a new, free service they’re making open for all users who like the idea of stopping companies from tracking your data through emails.
Companies bombarding you with promotional emails aren’t just trying to get you to click on the hottest new pair of shoes. They’re trying to get you to click on the email itself and use information derived from your profile to build a more succinct digital marketing profile it can use to hit you with even more targeted ads.
Which is why last year the privacy-minded browser company created a closed beta for its new tracker-stripping service that forwards emails through a separate address and then deletes so-called tracking pixels from the email. On Thursday, DuckDuckGo’s product lead Omid Majdi wrote in a blog post that the company’s taking their beta out into the public, allowing anybody to sign up to the service.
It works like this: while using the DuckDuckGo browser or app, you either visit duckduck.com/email or enable email protection in the app settings. That lets you connect a personal email to the service and create a new address that will read something like “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Emails forwarded through that service should come out on the other side with any identified trackers removed. The browser and app also detects email fields when browsing, allowing users to generate a unique private address every time you’re asked to provide one.
The company said they found 85% of their closed beta users’ emails had hidden email trackers embedded inside images and links within messages. This lets the companies like Google, MailChimp, AppNexus and more know when you opened the email, what device you were using, where you were when you opened the email, and more. Of course, companies can use this information to build a specific advertising profile on users, which they either use to send even more spam emails or sell that information to data brokers or other third parties.
The company said its introduced new features since first launching the closed beta last July, including the ability to remove various trackers embedded in email links that help companies trail users around the web. They also said they had beefed up their encryption protocols for links shown in emails. DuckDuckGo also now lets you reply to emails through your Duck forwarding address instead of your personal email.
While there are some other, paid and free email tracking removal services out there, this new free extension has the capacity to cut into big tech’s ravenous appetite for user data, which is a big money-maker for the likes of Google, Meta, Twitter and more.
DuckDuckGo has previously introduced services to stop some apps from tracking users on Android devices, a handy feature for those missing out on similar services provided on iOS. Privacy browsers like DuckDuckGo and Brave have also introduced features to block major companies like Google from tracking users on Accelerated Mobile Page-enabled websites. The company also recently released a Mac-enabled version of its browser.