The SDK the TeamsApart from some essential tasks for the operation of the app, they can give advertising companies access to the following data: precise location (GPS, time of current location, location, last known location, WiFi network identification), information of the contacts (contacts, photo of the contacts), the call log, the camera and the microphone.
A Microsoft spokesman tried to defend himself by throwing balls out: “We take reports of this nature very seriously and are investigating these allegations; however, Human Rights Watch has not provided enough information […] so that we can verify their conclusions.”
DuckDuckGo in the spotlight
DuckduckGo, the duckling’s search engine, has always been promoted as the perfect option in search of privacy, becoming the one that includes the Tor Browser. They also have a mobile browser, and as stated in their official description, “DuckDuckGo is an everyday browser that offers seamless protection against third-party trackers while you search and browse, and even access to tracking protections when you receive email and use other applications on your device. With DuckDuckGo, privacy becomes your default option.”
It is to say the least surprising that, pretending to be the perfect anti-tracking browser, DuckDuckGo signed an agreement with Microsoft. DuckDuckGo does indeed block third-party trackers, but, fluke of life, security researchers have found that Microsoft’s trackers work, while others are being effectively blocked.
While Google and Facebook trackers are blocked, Microsoft trackers can continue to run. Zach Edwards, the security researcher who first discovered the problem, later discovered that trackers related to the domains bing.com and linkedin.com, also owned by Microsoft, were able to get through the blocks. Apparently, DuckDuckGo has a search syndication agreement with Microsoft.
You can capture data within the DuckDuckGo so-called private browser on a website like Facebook’s https://t.co/u8W44qvsqF and you’ll see that DDG does NOT stop data flows to Microsoft’s Linkedin domains or their Bing advertising domains.
iOS + Android proof:
— ℨ𝔞𝔠𝔥 𝔈𝔡𝔴𝔞𝔯𝔡𝔰 (@thezedwards) May 23, 2022
In response to Edwards’s long thread on the subject, the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, confirmed that your browser intentionally allows Microsoft to crawl third-party sites due to a search syndication agreement with Redmond. However, Weinberg has made it clear that this restriction is only in his browser and does not affect the DuckDuckGo search engine.
For non-search tracker blocking (eg in our browser), we block most third-party trackers. 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.
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) May 23, 2022
While DuckDuckGo has been transparent about the advertising partnership with Microsoft, it’s unclear why they didn’t disclose the authorization of Microsoft trackers until a security researcher discovered it.