For years now, DuckDuckGo has actively expanding its privacy-focused web services, offering everything from its namesake search engine, to browser extensions, to a recent Email Protection forwarding system designed to thwart trackers. Although the latter feature was first released in a closed beta test last year via waitlist, DuckDuckGo announced yesterday that it has now expanded the option to everyone via a new, open beta phase.
Email trackers are vital for companies’ profit margins. They offer an incredibly sly way to build personalized consumer profiles with which they can then send you targeted ads, shape your online ecosystem, and even pass along personal info to other third-parties. According to DuckDuckGo’s estimates, approximately 85 percent of people using its Email Protection beta received emails containing hidden email trackers.
[Related: 7 tips for using DuckDuckGo.]
Now, anyone can head over to DuckDuckGo’s Email Protection homepage via their desktop browser to sign up for free or by updating their iOS/Android app to the latest version. From there, pick an @duck.com username (or two, or three—another nice feature of the forwarding system allows for unlimited addresses), and start entering the new email into online forms for a safer, more private experience online. You’ll even start getting the suggestion to autofill using your @duck.com account on other sites, and there’s also an option to generate a new address instantly for added, individualized site privacy. Any address can be easily deleted, too. PopSci created a test address simply enough, although it’s worth noting that the first forwarded email got routed to the spam folder, so new users might want to keep an eye on that after creating an account.
One example DuckDuckGo offered for a scenario in which you are moving and want to request a price quote for a new address, but would prefer moving companies to not have access to your personal email. By creating and using an @duck.com account, third-parties have a much more difficult time gathering extra information on you—more difficult, but unfortunately not impossible. As the company’s announcement notes, “Although we’re hiding as much personal information as we can, DuckDuckGo doesn’t create the message itself, so we can’t guarantee the email will not include your forwarding address or any other personal identifier.”
Still, DuckDuckGo’s new forwarding option adds a much desired new layer of privacy while online, so it’s nice to see it becoming more readily and easily accessible for users everywhere.