Understanding “App Tracking” Reports from Competing Browsers such as DuckDuckGo

Jan 17, 2022

DuckDuckGo makes a competing browser app that has recently started reporting on other apps’ usage of telemetry. As a direct competitor, they are hardly a neutral third-party since they have a vested interest in getting you to use their browser instead, and we recommend you treat their reports with caution.

Issues with DuckDuckGo’s reports

Their reports lump together any kind of network connections into the same bucket, and they broadly categorize all such connections as “App Tracking”. This is because there is no technical way for them to tell what kind of data is being collected, or to distinguish a bad actor from a good actor.

General Types of Data Collection in All Apps

Here is some background information on the kinds of data collection that many apps do.

Crash Reports

Ever used an app that crashes on one specific device, although it works fine on other devices? App developers would never know about these crashes on that one specific device unless crash reports are made available to them. Most people don’t bother manually sending crash reports to developers themselves, so the best way to know about these crashes is for apps to upload them in the background without user intervention.

This is not “App Tracking”, though DuckDuckGo will report it as such.

App Health Reports

Certain features can behave slower on certain devices, either due to hardware limitations, or because Android phone manufacturers make incompatible changes to the Android OS platform code for their own devices. Like crash reports, app developers can only address these issues if they are aware of it.

This is also not “App Tracking”, though DuckDuckGo will report it as such.

Actual “App Tracking”

Certain malicious apps track your every move across the Web, including sometimes your location data, and upload it to advertising providers without your consent. We do not condone this use of your data. None of our apps contain any advertising, or any such personal data collection, that may be used to track your behavior. We make our money by selling our apps directly to you, we have no other source of income.

Data Collection in Chimbori Apps

Our apps include crash reporting & app health reports, but not app tracking.

We are not interested in your private information or tracking your behavior, we simply want to know when the app crashes or when a particular feature is unreasonably slow, so we can fix it in the next version. This results in improved performance for you, our users.

DuckDuckGo records any such interactions as “private data collection” because they don’t know any better … or maybe they do?

Anti-Competitive Behavior

DuckDuckGo is notoriously loud about alleged anti-competitive behavior from others. It is in their economic interest to create hysteria about other apps, especially those that compete with them, such as ours, which also offer strong privacy guarantees in a Web browser. By raising the alarm for benign app behavior, they are in fact causing damage to the cause. We hope they will revisit their language around “App Tracking” to be more accurate, and provide better context to their users instead of scaring them.

Edit, 2022-05-24: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

With our apps, you are fully in control

Don’t want to share even basic anonymized crash reports & performance data to make the app better for everyone? We support your choice & your freedom, you are always in control!

Simply go to Settings → About → Report crashes and stats, and turn it off.

It’s that simple. You don’t need a third-party app to do that with our apps.

Our performance data collection practices are described in our Privacy Policy. We welcome you to read them and provide us feedback.

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