DuckDuckGo’s tracker-removing email service, which has been available in private beta for a year, is now open to anyone who uses a DuckDuckGo mobile app, browser extension, or Mac browser. It has also added a few more privacy tools.
The service provides you a duck.com email address, one intended to be given out for the kind of “Subscribe to our newsletter for 20 percent off” emails you know exist only to harvest data and target you for ads. Email sent to your duck.com address forwards to your chosen primary email—but with trackers removed.
Email Protection now also fixes up links, strips them of tracking modifiers, upgrades unencrypted HTTP URLs to HTTPS where possible, and, for the rare necessary reply, allows you to send directly from your duck address instead of exposing your primary email. During their closed beta, DuckDuckGo claims that 85 percent of the emails it processed contained hidden trackers.
To sign up for Email Protection, you’ll need to use either the DuckDuckGo mobile app for iOS or Android, use DuckDuckGo’s browser extension on Firefox, Chrome, Edge, or Brave, or use its beta Mac browser (the list for which must be joined in the DuckDuckGo mobile app).
In my experience, using the company’s apps, extensions, or browser isn’t necessary to keep the email forwarding service running, but they allow you to autofill your duck address and create more individual throwaway email addresses, which is handy for email filtering.
DuckDuckGo notes that the trackers tucked into email images and links can pass information back to the sender about when you opened a message, your geolocation when opening it, and which device you were using. Knowing your primary email address can also allow companies to connect it to Facebook and Google and target you for advertising across sites.
The company helpfully notes that it will not track you using its anti-tracking service. “When your Duck Addresses receive an email, we immediately apply our tracking protections and then forward it to you, never saving it on our systems. Sender information, subject lines…we don’t track any of it,” the company writes on its blog post. DuckDuckGo is also “committed to Email Protection for the long term,” and states that it worked during the closed beta to support millions of users.
Listing image by DuckDuckGo