If you want to give a search engine maximum privacy protection, you probably shouldn’t work with Microsoft. DuckDuckGo had to admit that after a security researcher took a closer look. The search engine always advertises that it attaches particular importance to data protection. This is in stark contrast to market leader Google, whose entire business model consists of generating audience profiles from user behavior and using them for ad marketing. DuckDuckGo wants to be the opposite of that. Among other things, the provider advertises with the self-description: “The Internet data protection company that allows you to manage your personal data on the Internet without compromise.”
In reality, however, things are probably not without compromises, as findings from security researcher Zach Edwards have now shown. He took a closer look at the DuckDuckGo browser for Android and iOS, which reportedly automatically blocks all trackers that different carriers use to collect data about the user on the Internet. In the mobile browser, however, there is a whitelist in which trackers are excluded from the block. According to Edwards, these are the ones used by Microsoft offerings like LinkedIn and Bing.
DuckDuckGo mentions instances where Microsoft receives information about the user, but this only affects direct interaction with services the company provides Redmond. The exception list for the trackers, on the other hand, also applies if the user is on third-party websites and, for example, a LinkedIn tracker is integrated there. For example, data is sent to Microsoft when the respective browser is used to access the Workplace.com page of Facebook parent company Meta.
DuckDuckGo boss Gabriel Weinberg admits this is no coincidence. The contract governing the delivery of search results from the Bing index to DuckDuckGo states that the trackers of the Microsoft services should not be blocked. Weinberg claims that they will at least keep trying to change these contractual clauses – which probably won’t help users who have relied on previous statements from the provider.
At this point, DuckDuckGo probably can’t be faulted for not avoiding such contract terms from the start – because it’s hardly possible for a small provider to handle the massive effort of setting up its own search engine. That is why, in principle, one is dependent on the licensing of the index information of major providers. However, the company can be accused of not communicating this openly but simply giving the wrong impression to the outside world.
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