Now you can use a free service created by Internet privacy specialists DuckDuckGo to help prevent advertising and tracking companies from monitoring your emails.
Announced in 2021, the beta version of Email Protection removes link tracking chains, images, and other assets within emails.
The project has moved to “Open Beta”, which means you can try it out now by signing up for a free @duck(dot)com email address through your browser, if you have the “DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials” extension, or by via DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser App on Android or iOS.
What is DuckDuckGo Email Protection?
When a company wants to know if the recipient of an email has received and opened a particular message, it incorporates tracers, usually as images. The image URL is unique to each recipient, and when their phone or laptop retrieves the image from the tracking company’s server, they know the email has been opened. Tracking images can be as small as a single pixel.
Similarly, unique tracking codes are added to links within emails so that when you access a site through an email link, the business knows that you are visiting the site.
These tracking links and assets are part of a much larger tracking network, which may link information about your interests, habits, employment, and other personal details, to create a profile about you.
Add to that the fact that even giving out your email presents some very real risks, and it’s a major problem that needs a solution.
Until now, the best solutions have been preventing images from autoloading, using aliases or disposable accounts to hide your email address, and manually removing the tracking code from links.
With DuckDuckGo Email Protection, you may no longer need to do this yourself. The service claims to remove the tracking code from links and images, which means tracking companies can no longer tell who has opened an email. DuckDuckGo also provides unlimited private @duck(dot)com email addresses, so you can create a new one for each site. Follow-up script emails are forwarded to your regular account.
How to Get DuckDuckGo Email Protection on Mobile and PC
To get an @duck(dot)com email address on a mobile device, you must install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser. This app is controversial because it allowed third-party trackers from Microsoft without informing users. Privacy Browser is available in the Apple Store for iOS devices and in the Google Play Store. The F-Droid version of Privacy Browser still requires you to “join the private waiting list”.
Once installed, go to settings, then email protection. You will be directed to a new web page at duckduckgo(dot)com/email.
However, don’t bother trying to go there in any other browser – the page will throw an error message: “email protection is not available in this browser”.
Click Startafter next to review the “Privacy Guarantees and Terms of Service”. You won’t be able to read them unless you’re using a DDG Privacy Browser or DDG Browser Extension, but it’s important that you take time to study them before agreeing.
Click nextand choose your duck(dot)com address and forwarding address. Click This is correct to confirm the details.
To sign in using a desktop browser, you need to install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension and grant it “Access to your data for all websites”, “Access browser tabs” and “Access browser activity while browsing”.
Click on duckduckgo(dot)com/email, and a add to firefox the button will appear; Clicking it will install the browser plugin.
Using DuckDuckGo’s email protection is easy
There’s no arguing that DuckDuckGo Email Protection is a great tool and will go a long way in protecting your privacy, at least from entities that don’t have a business relationship with DuckDuckGo. Email Protection is easy to use and works, but it would be better as a stand-alone application that doesn’t require access to every page you visit online.