DuckDuckGo tackles email privacy with new tracker-stripping service

The company says it will never save messages that are routed through Email Protection.


DuckDuckGo, which is best known for its privacy-focused search engine, has announced a new service that aims to thwart email trackers. Email Protection is now available in beta. It’s a free forwarding service that strips tracking pixels from your emails with the aim of shielding your personal data.

Around 70 percent of emails contain trackers, DuckDuckGo notes. These can be used to tell the sender when you opened an email, the device you accessed it with and even where you are when you read it. The company notes that trackers can be used for ad targeting as well.

To use the Email Protection service, you’ll need to sign up for a nifty, free email address. DuckDuckGo will extract any trackers from emails sent to that address and forward the messages to your regular inbox. The company says its systems will never save emails — not even the sender or recipient's email address. When you get the email, you'll be able to see which trackers, if any, DuckDuckGo yanked.

You can also generate randomized addresses to stop companies from tracking you by email. This part of the service is similar to Apple’s Hide My Email option. DuckDuckGo’s approach works across platforms though its app and browser extension.

If you think a site or app might pummel you with spam or share your email address elsewhere, you can create a disposable address. This could come in handy when you're signing up for a free trial, for instance. It will also provide a level of protection if that email address is leaked in a data breach. No one would know what email address you use for other services. DuckDuckGo says it’ll be a cinch to deactivate a Private Duck Address if you want to stop receiving any emails through it.

DuckDuckGo has opened a waitlist for the Email Protection beta and you won’t need to provide any personal information to sign up. You’ll claim your spot in line with a timestamp that’s saved on your device, and you’ll receive a notification when you can snag your email address. To register, open the DuckDuckGo iOS or Android app, then go to Settings, Beta Features and Email Protection, then tap the Join the Private Waitlist option.