Over the past few years, internet users have become more aware of, and more interested in, their online privacy. Companies like Meta have made it very clear that they do not respect your privacy, and it has caused people to look harder at what they do online and who is watching them do it. Because of this, we have seen the rise of privacy-focused companies and products. One of the leaders in this arena has been DuckDuckGo, which has released an email proxy service aimed at reducing the amount of spying happening in your inbox.
Trackers in email
There are a lot of ways to track what happens in your email. Some are seemingly innocuous, such as tagging a link with a source. This happens in a lot of scenarios and comes in the form of the ?utm=email that can appear at the end of a link. This generally shows the site what is performing well: email, Facebook, RSS, etc. It's not particularly offensive and unobtrusive.
Other methods, however, can be more invasive. Images in emails can contain tracking code that tells the sender all sorts of information about your interaction with the email. The images, if linked online, can tell if the email has been opened, what time of day it was opened, and even the location from which the email was opened. Obviously, data of this detail can be incredibly personal and not something that you intended to give to the sender.
DuckDuckGo Email Protection
The unfortunately named DuckDuckGo has had a focus on privacy since its inception. The organization produces privacy-focused products and services for the internet, including search and a browser. Now, the group has brought out a new service: Email Protection. While this service has been in private testing for a little while, it is now available to everyone.
Essentially, the service works like a proxy for your email. Instead of giving out your personal email address when signing up for something online, you can give out your new XXXXX@duck.com address. You would do this any time you expect to receive any type of marketing email. It's perfect for online newsletters, special offers, and sale information. You can also create random addresses as throw aways for services you don't want to hear from again. When you receive an email to that address, it will be forwarded to your primary address, but with a little change.
What DuckDuckGo does is it strips out a ton of tracking data. This includes the innocuous stuff like UTM, but also the more invasive trackers in images and links. The removal of these trackers will limit companies reach into your daily email and browsing habits, but will also keep your interaction with the brand a bit more private as well. You'll likely see a decrease in advertising for products and services based on emails you've received and potentially less communication from brands you're not as interested in.
The Email Protection service is completely free and available now. To sign up for the service, you can go to the website on a desktop browser (with the browser plugin) or use the mobile browser.