DuckDuckGo Email Protection Now in Beta

August 4, 2021

DuckDuckGo has released a new privacy-centric service. The Verge reports, “DuckDuckGo Launches New Email Protection Service to Remove Trackers.” Famous for its non-tracking search platform, the company also offers mobile and desktop browser extensions and is working on its own privacy-focused desktop browser. Metasearch to browser to email: the company aims to protect privacy across the online environment. The article describes how the email service removes trackers, and one can find details on how its other offerings work at its website. It all sounds very effective, and we are glad to see these measures in place. However, we have a question: What about those log files? I suppose we are to assume no admin ever, ever looks at that data.

Writer Dave Gershgorn describes how the Email Protection tool works:

The company’s new Email Protection feature gives users a free ‘@duck.com’ email address, which will forward emails to your regular inbox after analyzing their contents for trackers and stripping any away. DuckDuckGo is also extending this feature with unique, disposable forwarding addresses, which can be generated easily in DuckDuckGo’s mobile browser or through desktop browser extensions. The personal DuckDuckGo email is meant to be given out to friends and contacts you know, while the disposable addresses are better served when signing up for free trials, newsletters, or anywhere you suspect might sell your email address. If the email address is compromised, you can easily deactivate it. These tools are similar to anti-tracking features implemented by Apple in iOS 14 and iOS 15, but DuckDuckGo’s approach integrates into iOS, Android, and all major web browsers. DuckDuckGo will also make it easier to spin up disposable email addresses on the fly, for newsletters or anywhere you might share your email. Tackling email privacy has been a major goal for DuckDuckGo, as the company pushes for privacy-friendly methods for various online tasks.”

According to this 2017 study, more than 70 percent of email lists employ trackers that tell advertisers when, where, and on what device a message is opened. This information, of course, is then used to build advertising profiles. DuckDuckGo knows switching email addresses is a hassle most users would be unwilling to endure, so it came up with this intermediary layer. Naturally, the tool integrates with the company’s browser extensions. One limitation—while a user can respond to email that comes in to their @duck.com address, one cannot use it to initiate a new email thread. Email Protection is currently in beta; no word on when we can expect the tool to be released to the public.

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2021

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