After rolling out its Email Protection service in private beta last year, DuckDuckGo has announced that it’s finally available to all users. Email Protection is a forwarding service that assigns you a free “@duck.com” email address and intercepts email trackers before they hit your personal inbox.
If you need a refresher on exactly what DuckDuckGo’s Email Protection service does, it lets you use either a personal or private “duck” address to shield your real email address from companies. Before the email hits your inbox, DuckDuckGo strips it of the trackers that snoop on your location when opening an email, when you opened it, and the device you used. It also breaks down how many trackers it removed, as well as which companies they were attached to.
Personal addresses assign a name of your choice to your duck address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, private addresses take things a bit further — each time you start filling out an email field, DuckDuckGo generates a random address, which might look something like email@example.com. Using a new private address each time you fill out an online form should make it even more difficult for companies to track you. You can also deactivate each private address individually in case one’s receiving a lot of spam.
Now that DuckDuckGo has opened the beta to everyone, it’s adding a few new features as well. This includes link tracking protection, which removes trackers embedded in many of the links added to emails (including those added to images).
It’s also rolling out a smarter encryption feature that converts links using an unencrypted “http://” connection to a secure “https://” link. A URL using HTTPS prevents hackers — or your internet service provider (ISP) — from seeing how you interact with a website. Right now, this feature supports a growing list of 28 million sites.
Additionally, DuckDuckGo now lets you reply from your duck address, whether you’re using a private or personal one. This can help conceal your email address when replying to a company or person who you might not want to know your personal address or identity. But because the email is actually getting sent from your personal email client, like Gmail, DuckDuckGo says it “can’t guarantee the email will not include your forwarding address or any other personal identifier.”
DuckDuckGo has also rolled out a new self-service dashboard that lets you change your forwarding address, as well as make any other changes to your duck accounts. You can try out the beta for yourself by using the DuckDuckGo extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge, or you can access it through the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for iOS, Android, and Mac (which is still in beta).
“The biggest threats to email privacy are trackers in emails and the profiling that happens via your email address,” Omid Majdi, the product lead at DuckDuckGo, said in a statement to The Verge. “DuckDuckGo Email Protection addresses both of these issues and does so in a simple way — same inbox, more privacy — and we’re thrilled to be making the beta open to all.”
Update August 25th, 1:08PM ET: Updated to clarify that DuckDuckGo’s smarter encryption feature currently supports a growing list of 28 million sites.