Brave Roasts DuckDuckGo Over Bing Privacy Exception

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    Brave CEO Brendan Eich took aim at rival DuckDuckGo on Wednesday by challenging the web search engine’s efforts to brush off revelations that its Android, iOS, and macOS browsers gave, to a degree, Microsoft Bing and LinkedIn trackers a pass versus other trackers. The Register reports: Eich drew attention to one of DuckDuckGo’s defenses for exempting Microsoft’s Bing and LinkedIn domains, a condition of its search contract with Microsoft: that its browsers blocked third-party cookies anyway. “For non-search tracker blocking (e.g. in our browser), we block most third-party trackers,” explained DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg last month. “Unfortunately our Microsoft search syndication agreement prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties. However, we have been continually pushing and expect to be doing more soon.” However, Eich argues this is disingenuous because DuckDuckGo also includes exceptions that allow Microsoft trackers to circumvent third-party cookie blocking via appended URL parameters. “Trackers try to get around cookie blocking by appending identifiers to URL query parameters, to ID you across sites,” he explained. DuckDuckGo is aware of this, Eich said, because its browser prevents Google, Facebook, and others from appending identifiers to URLs in order to bypass third-party cookie blocking. “[DuckDuckGo] removes Google’s ‘gclid’ and Facebook’s ‘fbclid’,” Eich said. “Test it yourself by visiting https://example.org/?fbclid=sample in [DuckDuckGo]’s macOS browser. The ‘fbclid’ value is removed.” “However, [DuckDuckGo] does not apply this protection to Microsoft’s ‘msclkid’ query parameter,” Eich continued. “[Microsoft’s] documentation specifies that ‘msclkid’ exists to circumvent third-party cookie protections in browsers (including in Safari’s browser engine used by DDG on Apple OSes).” Eich concluded by arguing that privacy-focused brands need to prioritize privacy. “Brave categorically does not and will not harm user privacy to satisfy partners,” he said. A spokesperson for DuckDuckGo characterized Eich’s conclusion as misleading. “What Brendan seems to be referring to here is our ad clicks only, which is protected in our agreement with Microsoft as strictly non-profiling (private),” a company spokesperson told The Register in an email. “That is these ads are privacy protected and how he’s framed it is ultimately misleading. Brendan, of course, kept the fact that our ads are private out and there is really nothing new here given everything has already been disclosed.” In other words, allowing Bing to append its identifier to URLs enables Bing advertisers to tell whether their ad produced a click (a conversion), but not to target DuckDuckGo browser users based on behavior or identity. DuckDuckGo’s spokesperson pointed to Weinberg’s attempt to address the controversy on Reddit and argued that DuckDuckGo provides very strong privacy protections. “This is talking about link tracking which no major browser protects against (see https://privacytests.org/), however we’ve started protecting against link tracking, and started with the primary offenders (Google and Facebook),” DuckDuckGo’s spokesperson said. “To note, we are planning on expanding this to more companies, including Twitter, Microsoft, and more. We are not restricted from this and will be doing so.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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