There’s almost nothing you can do online that doesn’t leave digital footprints. Even the simple act of opening an email can relay data to third parties, but privacy-focused internet firm DuckDuckGo has a solution for that. Last year, DuckDuckGo rolled out its Email Protection service in a limited beta. Starting today, Email Protection is available to anyone who wants it.
When you sign up for DuckDuckGo’s Email Protection, you’ll get an @duck address, but it’s not a traditional email account. You won’t have a login or an @duck inbox. This is a forwarding address that is tied to your current email account, be that Gmail, Outlook, or something old-school like Hotmail. When someone sends an email to your DuckDuckGo address, it will be forwarded to your existing inbox.
By inputting your @duck email instead of your real address, DuckDuckGo acts as a barrier between you and the rest of the internet. DuckDuckGo does more than obscure your address — it also sanitizes your emails before they hit the inbox. Many emails contain tracking code that can relay information about when you opened a message, your location, and even which device you used to read it. During the closed beta, DuckDuckGo says it found that 85 percent of emails contain hidden trackers. With the expanded beta, DuckDuckGo has also added the ability to strip tracking codes from links, as well as automatic HTTPS upgrading.
There are two ways to use the service — you can give sites and services your chosen @duck address, or you can have DuckDuckGo create a unique private address each time. These addresses will be long strings of letters like “[email protected],” making it even harder for companies to track you. Plus, you can deactivate these private addresses at any time. You can reply to messages from your regular email, and the person on the other end will only see the @duck address. However, DuckDuckGo notes it cannot promise that your email provider won’t attach some personal data.
For the best experience, including generating those neat unique emails, you’ll have to use the DuckDuckGo app on your phone or a browser extension on your computer. The app is available for both Android and iOS — head to the settings to grab your @duck address. The DuckDuckGo website will help you get set up on your computer.