Microsoft trackers conflict with DuckDuckGo, get added to block list

Aurich Lawson

DuckDuckGo, the privacy-oriented search company, says it will block Microsoft trackers in your desktop web browserfollowing revelations in May that certain Bing and LinkedIn scripts were being approved.

In a blog postDuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg says he has listened to user concerns since the security researcher Zach Edwards Thread that “we did not meet your expectations regarding one of our browser’s web tracking protections.” Weinberg says that over the next week, the company’s browser will add Microsoft to the list of third-party tracking scripts blocked by its mobile and desktop browsers, as well as extensions for other browsers.

“Previously, we were limited in how we could apply our third-party tracker upload protection to Microsoft tracking scripts due to a policy requirement related to our use of Bing as a source for our private search results,” he writes. Weinberg. “We are pleased that this is no longer the case. We have not had, and do not have, any similar limitations with any other company.”

There are many ubiquitous and identifying things that load on most modern web pages. The problem in the DuckDuckGo apps was their default blocking of scripts from companies like Facebook and Google that load on third-party websites. DuckDuckGo, which uses Microsoft’s Bing as one of its search results sources, had to allow some of Microsoft’s crawlers to load “due to a policy requirement.” In a response from Reddit at the time of the disclosure, Weinberg noted that Microsoft’s trackers were still blocked in most ways, such as using third-party cookies to fingerprint visitors.

However, there is more to the delicate dance between DuckDuckGo and Microsoft than just trackers. Microsoft also provides ads that run on DuckDuckGo search results. To allow advertisers to see when someone has clicked an ad on DuckDuckGo and landed on their page, DuckDuckGo apps will not block ad requests. Weinberg points out that he can avoid this by disable ads in DuckDuckGo search entirely. Weinberg writes that the company is working on validating ads so they can’t be tracked, similar to similar efforts by Safari Y firefox.

Finally, DuckDuckGo intends to be more open about blocking its tracker. The company committed its tracker block list to a public GitHub repository yesterday and published a new help document about your tracking protections.

It may seem like a lot of work with two scripts, but DuckDuckGo lives within the tricky balance of trying to make its search product convenient and relevant while offering its users as much privacy as websites can handle before breaking. And the 15-year-old company from Paoli, Pennsylvania, can’t completely outrun Bing. Weinberg noted in his May Reddit Response that most of its traditional search results and images come from Bing. “Only two companies (Google and Microsoft) actually have a global index of high-quality web links” because of the multibillion-dollar cost, Weinberg wrote. Any company that wants to offer search to the world faces a duopoly or a very long journey.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to expand its advertising markets, most recently to Netflixand potentially in your own operating system. Their advertising revenue was $3 billion for the quarter through June 30, a 15 percent year-over-year increase, but the lowest growth rate in more than a year.

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