How DuckDuckGo Can Protect Your Email
Your primary email address is under attack. On one hand, you have scammers and phishers, constantly bombarding your inbox with bunk in an attempt to steal your data. On the other hand, you have trackers, which follow your email activity in an effort to send you more targeted ads. While there are various services available to remedy these security concerns, DuckDuckGo has its own solution: hide your email.
DuckDuckGo officially rolled out Email Protection as an open beta to the public on Thursday, Aug. 25. The service has been in testing since July of last year, but only for a small number of users. If you were interested, you needed to put your name on waitlist and hope you were selected to try it out. While the feature is still technically in beta, anyone can now give it a go.
To be clear, DuckDuckGo isn’t asking you to change your email address. On the contrary, the system works by utilizing your existing email address. What DuckDuckGo does is give you a “Duck Address,“ which is, in actuality, a dummy address. Whenever you need to provide your email address to pay company or service you’d rather keep private from, you use this @duck.com address. Then, DuckDuckGo forwards your email is to your primary address, keeping the real thing away from other companies.
It gets even better, too. Not only can you use this personal @duck.com address to forward emails, DuckDuckGo will also generate a random, unique address anytime you want one. That way, each service gets a different @duck.com email address tied to your account, but they all forward back to your primary email address.
The kicker, though, is what DuckDuckGo does with your emails before forwarding them to your primary inbox. Rather than send them over as-is, the company instead scrubs them for trackers. They look for pixel trackers, pixel-sized images that can tell when you’ve opened an email, as well as trackers that follow your activity when you click on a link in the message: If DuckDuckGo finds a tracker, it blocks it, then forwards the messages to your main address.
DuckDuckGo isn’t the first to create this type of system. Apple’s Hide My Email feature is quite similar: The company creates a scrambled email address (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org) then forwards messages to your primary email from there. The benefit here is anyone can take advantage of DuckDuckGo’s offering, whether you have a Mac, PC, iPhone, or Android.