Alternative search engine DuckDuckGo said Wednesday it released new tools to help stop Google from snooping on Android users amid mounting attention to the big tech company’s surveillance practices.
DuckDuckGo has styled itself as a privacy-focused alternative to Google’s search product and unveiled the new tools days after Google made headlines for agreeing to pay a $391.5 million settlement to states regarding alleged inappropriate location tracking.
The new App Tracking Protection from DuckDuckGo intends to stop trackers hidden inside apps on Android devices from following users, including when people stop using the apps.
“App Tracking Protection for Android is launching into open beta today,” DuckDuckGo announced on its blog. “It’s a free feature in the DuckDuckGo Android app that helps block 3rd-party trackers in the apps on your phone (like Google snooping in your weather app) — meaning more comprehensive privacy and less creepy targeting.”
DuckDuckGo cast its new product as similar to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature that asks users whether they want to allow third-party app tracking. DuckDuckGo said its product will automatically block all hidden trackers it can identify.
Earlier this week, Google agreed to pay $391.5 million in a settlement with a 40-state attorneys general coalition to resolve accusations it tracked people’s location in violation of state laws, including after people told Google to stop.
A coalition of attorneys general described it as the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Still, the penalty paled vs. the $13.9 billion profit that Google’s parent company Alphabet generated in the third quarter, according to reports.
Google pledged to make changes to its products and said it changed product policies connected to the issues in the states’ investigations years ago.
Google is far from the only tech company gathering and analyzing people’s personal data. DuckDuckGo said its research has found the average Android user has 35 apps on each phone and possibly experiences 1,000 to 2,000 tracking attempts every day.
Someone who uses apps to check flight prices, home prices, ticket prices and the weather may have more than 45 tracking companies collecting personal data such as location information, email addresses, phone numbers, time zones and details about the device like its make and model, according to DuckDuckGo.
Such information is then organized into a profile for advertisers by companies like Facebook and Google, working to influence what people see online, according to DuckDuckGo.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.