DuckDuckGo's partnership with Microsoft calls into question its "privacy first" policies

Famed privacy-first search engine DuckDuckGo is coming under some scrutiny for its syndication agreement with Microsoft as researchers point out its cozy tracker partnership.

According to a Twitter thread posted by a supply chain and privacy data researcher named Zach Edwards, "the new DuckDuckGo browser for iOS/Android don't block Microsoft data flows, for LinkedIn or Bing."

For a company that prides itself on privacy and anonymity, Edwards' find sent DuckDuckGo CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg into mitigation mode with the following statement issued in response.

For non-search tracker blocking (eg in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. Unfortunately, our Microsoft search syndication agreement prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties. However, we have been continually pushing and expect to be doing more soon.

Weinberg continues on in the Twitter thread with, "Many people think about us as search first, so I wanted to be clear that this has nothing to do with search."

As for the details of the syndication agreement between Microsoft and DuckDuckGo, Microsoft Advertising (the platform) is allowed to track the IP addresses and other information of DuckDuckGo users when an ad link is clicked.

According to the agreement, the tracker is in place for accounting purposes between the two companies and is not associated or used for profiling a user.

Furthermore, the syndication agreement is only supposed to affect the browser usage and not the entirety of DuckDuckGo's search engine, which the company is pushing Microsoft to remove for greater transparency, according to Weinberg.

As of now, Microsoft has declined to comment on the matter.

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