DuckDuckGo is the Google alternative that offers better privacy protection than other search engines. After a trial period, the @Duck.com Email Protection service is now available to everyone, so here’s what it does and how to use it.
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What is DuckDuckGo email protection?
DuckDuckGo Email Protection is an email forwarding service with built-in privacy features. You can sign up for a @duck.com forwarding address, which forwards to a standard mailbox of your choice. All emails sent to your @duck.com address are cleaned of known tracers before being forwarded to you.
The service also lets you create random email aliases, much like Apple’s Hide My Email service. You can deactivate an alias at any time and stop receiving emails, giving you greater protection and confidence when signing up for potentially spammy services.
DuckDuckGo states that email content is not saved when using the service. Only your forwarding address and aliases are stored on DuckDuckGo’s services, with the search engine promising not to use personal information for anything other than running the service.
Email trackers are intrusive devices designed to see if (and when) you open an email. They often take the form of small images, called tracking pixels. When the sender detects that the unique tracking pixel has been viewed, the email is marked as opened on their end.
While everything known email trackers are removed, DuckDuckGo points out that “new trackers are popping up all the time and blocking some of them can hurt usability…while we can’t block them all, we’re constantly working to expand this tracking blocking emails over time”.
You can use your @duck.com address for forwarding purposes only, or you can create random aliases that can be grouped together at any time. This is virtually identical to Apple’s Hide My Email service without relying on an iCloud+ subscription and Apple device. Apple also blocks trackers using its messaging apps for macOS and iOS, which puts the two services on an equal footing.
Apple’s service is arguably better integrated into the ecosystem with built-in software-level tracker blocking (without the need for a forwarding service), but DuckDuckGo Email Protection offers a solid alternative for those who don’t use (or want to use) Apple products to obtain a comparable level of protection.
How to use DuckDuckGo email protection
To use DuckDuckGo Email Protection, you must use the DuckDuckGo extension and a supported browser like Firefox, Chrome, Brave, or Edge. The service is also available using DuckDuckGo for Mac, DuckDuckGo for iPhone or DuckDuckGo for Android.
Once the extension is installed, visit the DuckDuckGo email protection website in your browser of choice and click “Get Started” to register. From there, you’ll need to choose an address to use with the service. This will be a permanent forwarding address, so pick something you’d be happy to give away.
You can go to duckduckgo.com/email/ at any time to update your forwarding address (under account settings) and click “Generate private duck address” to create a “burner” email. You can also click on the DuckDuckGo extension icon and click on “Create a new Duck address” to copy a new alias to your clipboard.
We tested the forwarding service and noticed that messages sent to disposable aliases went straight to iCloud’s “Junk” folder, so be aware of this if you’re going to rely on the service. If you wish to deactivate an alias, you can do so by clicking the “More” link at the top of an incoming message.
Is DuckDuckGo email protection secure?
DuckDuckGo is headquartered in Paoli, Pennsylvania, which means the company is subject to United States law and court requests. The search engine says in its email protection terms of service that it only discloses personal information when it is “legally compelled to do so” and promises to take legal action to fight disclosures . Individuals will be notified if requests are made by law enforcement.
DuckDuckGo goes on to state that it has developed its own mail infrastructure, rather than using third-party services to send mail. The company is committed to protecting this infrastructure with “strict technical and organizational controls” that include an encrypted database that stores personal information and encrypted connections. wherever possible
Be aware that some email services do not support encrypted connections, although most do at this point. The company says it does not “log to disk” IP addresses, including those of people who abuse the service. IP addresses are not linked to any personal information.
DuckDuckGo retains 30 days of backup information (including your forwarding address and aliases), which means that 30 days after the account deletion request, they should be gone forever. That’s quite a long delay compared to a VPN, many of which keep no logs.
Finally, there is the issue of ownership. DuckDuckGo states that it will not allow a change of ownership to “weaken” its policies. It’s fine in theory, but in the end there is always a risk because no company can guarantee a result in the event of the loss of its independent status.
There are some indemnification terms in the service agreement, such as DuckDuckGo not guaranteeing that the service will always work as intended. This is the standard rate for most online services.
Should you use DDG email protection?
DuckDuckGo Email Protection provides a useful service for those interested in pixel tracking, who also appreciate “burned in” email addresses that can be disabled at any time.
The service takes a more privacy-conscious approach than most major email providers and lets you give away disposable addresses without worrying about dealing with a torrent of spam or follow-up messages.
DuckDuckGo promises that the content of your messages is never saved to disk and is instead processed in memory on servers and quickly erased. Despite this, personal information such as your forwarding address and the aliases you have created could potentially be used to identify you. DuckDuckGo Email Protection is a good way to fight marketers and spammers, rather than a reliable security tool.
Remember that online privacy is a cat-and-mouse game and marketers may find increasingly sneaky ways to embed tracking pixels (or other techniques) in their messages. .
If you want a truly secure email provider, you better sign up for a service that’s designed to be as secure as possible from the start. We recommend something like ProtonMail or Tutanota.