In short: DuckDuckGo positions itself as a protector of user privacy through its search engine and browser. However, a security researcher found that the company has an agreement with Microsoft that adds asterisks to this promise. Since then, DuckDuckGo has been defending its relationship with Microsoft, which it has been trying to change.
Update: DuckDuckGo reached out to us for some clarification even though our original story was accurate. Again, we understand that there may be some confusion between DuckDuckGo, the search engine, and the DuckDuckGo browser apps. CEO Gabriel Weinberg published long post on Reddit which explains in more detail what’s going on if you’re interested.
The DuckDuckGo browser should block trackers from advertisers who sell and trade user data. However, earlier this week security researcher Zach Edwards discovered that it allows Microsoft to track data through LinkedIn and Bing advertising domains.
The DuckDuckGo website has a page recognizing that it has an agreement allowing Microsoft to place ads next to search results. It states that Microsoft does not store ad click data and does not use it for user profiling, but does not mention that trackers send data via LinkedIn and Bing.
To block non-search trackers (for example, in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. Unfortunately, our Microsoft Search Syndication Agreement does not allow us to do more with Microsoft-owned properties. However, we are constantly pushing and hope to do more soon.
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) May 23, 2022
In response to these claims, DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg admitted that the agreement with Microsoft forces it to allow the use of the company’s trackers. Weinberg predictably claims that his company is still more private than other browsers because it blocks most non-Microsoft third-party trackers. DuckDuckGo it negotiation with Microsoft to remove this item and change the descriptions of the mobile browser app store pages to better inform users.
This issue is exclusive to the DuckDuckGo browser. The search engine, on the contrary, does not show a special relationship with Microsoft. This just goes to show that it’s probably not possible to remain completely anonymous online, although some protection may be better than none.