Does VPN in the Total Android-app block app-tracking?

SenT
SenT Posts: 7 Explorer

Hi there,

I Bought and installed my F-secure Total today.

I normally use the Android DuckDuckGo browser on my phone, because it blocks web- and app tracking. DuckDuckGo blocks literally thousands of tracking attempts daily by apps on my phone.

However, this works via a kind of VPN connection and in Android you can only set up 1 VPN connection. So now I have to choose between F-Secure VPN or DuckDuckGo.

I thought VPN does block browser/web tracking, but does it also block app tracking?

Kind regards,

SenT

Accepted Answer

  • Firmy
    Firmy Posts: 1,599 Community Manager
    Answer ✓

    Hello @SenT

    Welcome to the F-Secure Community. Thank you for your post.

    Privacy VPN ensures your privacy while browsing the web. When visiting websites or using apps attempting to track you, Privacy VPN conceals your IP address, blocks tracking cookies, and prevents apps from sharing information about you with data collection sites.

    For additional details, you can refer to this link.

    Turn on app-tracking protection in DuckDuckGo or F-Secure VPN?

    Operating at the network level, F-Secure Total's Privacy VPN establishes a secure and private connection for all internet traffic on your device. Importantly, the tracking protection it provides is not confined to a specific browser but extends to all apps and online activities.

    The decision between DuckDuckGo browser and F-Secure Total's Privacy VPN hinges on your specific privacy requirements.

    Should you have further inquiries or need assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out.

    Thank you, and have a good day.

    PawełPUkkoSenT

Answers

  • Ukko
    Ukko Posts: 3,604 Superuser

    Hello,

    Sorry for my reply. I am only an F-Secure user.

    This is the first time when I read about "app tracking" features, so.. I think F-Secure VPN does not use it (at least, as something specific). However, I tried to read about mentioned DuckDuckGo browser and its feature:

    Based on its description, I think F-Secure TOTAL's Privacy VPN has not something similar as a direct layer.

    But, actually, it is a bit of strange that a thrid-party browser will monitor and check 'network connection attempts' from installed third-party apps. :)

    Thanks!

    // it is also called "beta" feature in DuckDuckGo. So, maybe, someday this thing will be a bit more popular across security solutions.

    in the mentioned page, it is described that feature is not VPN - but required permissions/abilities are the same. So, maybe, it can be implemented in the F-Secure Total's Privacy VPN - as such - you can try to put your idea in the Feature Requests board: Feature Requests — F-Secure Community

    just for more 'votes' by other users and consideration by F-Secure team.

    FirmySenT
  • SenT
    SenT Posts: 7 Explorer

    Dear Ukko,

    Thank you very much for your answer.

    Your 'sorry' wasn't needed. I appreciate that you took the effort to answer me.

    My next question is: What is better?

    Turn on app-tracking protection in DuckDuckGo or F-Secure VPN?

    Ukko
  • Ukko
    Ukko Posts: 3,604 Superuser

    Hello,

    Turn on app-tracking protection in DuckDuckGo or F-Secure VPN?

    as it is pointed out by the official response - F-Secure Total's Privacy VPN has this security layer too. As 'app-tracking' feature in the entire VPN design (where all network connections are under the VPN).

    So, then, obviously F-Secure TOTAL and its Privacy VPN is a bit of more trustworthy.

    sorry for the misleading!

    Should you have further inquiries or need assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out.

    But can I ask one thing? Do we able to see somewhere statistics/counts or something about blocked app tracking events? I mean, I did not remember something about this in my installation.

    It is just a bit of useful to know or maybe even realise how many times apps even tried to use 'connection' with this intention.

    With the description of DuckDuckGo browser's feature - it states that even if app is not used -> attempt (tracking) will be rejected/misrouted.

    With the description of "Using tracking protection" (F-Secure) - it states that "When you go to a website or use an app that tries to track you," As for me - when I tried to use an app. But since VPN is enabled for most of system parts - does it mean that F-Secure App Tracking is valid for 'background' app's connection (like, we do not launch / use a particular app in that moment)? I mean, is there still filtering and checking against known third party trackers (used by apps) for all the traffic?

    If so, in statistics - I do see generic count for all traffic (which is just expected to be protected/filtered; so to speak, covered by VPN connection).

    However in the guide it called as "The anti-tracking statistics in Privacy VPN currently only show the total amount of data that was blocked". If so, is it possible to be with overall some GBs of blocked traffic - even if I am not really huge VPN user at all? :) Maybe I will check it now, but thought about this count as about all 'used' network traffic (not the only "blocked" one).

    Does this feature valid for Windows too? Is there whitelist for quite many 'known' companies (like Microsoft itself)?

    Description of Tracking Protection in UI says mostly about advertisers via tracking cookies. But I feel that 'app tracking' is not only about tracking cookies and advertisers.

    Thanks!

    Firmy
  • SenT
    SenT Posts: 7 Explorer

    Dear All,


    Thanks for thinking with me/us.


    I'm not sure if I understood the last post from Ukko correctly, my English is not excellent.

    But I think I'm having the same question.


    Tracing cookies are blocked on my laptop by F-Secure Total, while Tracking Protection is enabled in VPN. But there is no specification. See screenshot.


    But on my phone it says 'zero' at the result of blocked tracing cookies. See screenshot.


    While DuckDuckGo indicates that many, many tracing blockings are done, when I let DuckDuckGo do the blocking work. Even if these apps are not actively used or really active in the background in Android, DDG prevent apps to send several personal information (like ZIP Code, Name, Country, etc) from my phone to datacollecting servers. See the dark screenshots. The second screenshot shows the tracking specifications that are blocked by DDG. This concerns more than 34,000 blocks in 15 apps over 7 days!

    "xx trackingpogingen geblokkeerd van x bedrijf / bedrijven"

    means: tracking attempts from x companies blocked.

    "113 pogingen. Wat wordt er verzameld:"

    means: 113 attempts; What do they try to collect:


    So either DuckDuckGo is exaggerating the results or F-Secure still has to tinker with this function in Android.

    Ukko
  • SenT
    SenT Posts: 7 Explorer

    BTW and off-topic: Is it possible to edit a post?

    I would like to change the pictures to smaller ones.

  • Firmy
    Firmy Posts: 1,599 Community Manager

    Hello @Ukko @SenT

    Tracking protection stops cookies from known advertising networks, which are used to track your online behavior. It prevents these networks from following you from one site to another. Additionally, it blocks communication with websites that are known for tracking, based on F-Secure's analysis of their reputation.

    Tracking cookies are small pieces of data stored on your computer by websites you visit. These cookies are designed to track your online behavior and activities. The information collected by tracking cookies is often used by advertisers and website owners to create a profile of your interests, preferences, and browsing habits. This profile is then used to deliver targeted advertisements and content to you.

    When F-Secure's Privacy VPN blocks tracking cookies, it means that these cookies cannot be stored on your device or accessed by websites. Blocking tracking cookies helps protect your privacy by preventing websites from collecting data about your online activities and personalizing content based on your behavior.

    @Ukko

    But can I ask one thing? Do we able to see somewhere statistics/counts or something about blocked app tracking events? I mean, I did not remember something about this in my installation.

    You can view the statistics under "Tracking cookies blocked" on various platforms, including mobile versions, Windows, and Mac.

    @SenT

    Could you confirm whether Privacy VPN is consistently enabled? Additionally, check if any network has been set as trusted in the settings. The VPN needs to be activated for this feature to function effectively.

    Should you require further assistance or clarification, please feel free to reach out.

    Thank you, and have a good day.

    Ukko
  • Ukko
    Ukko Posts: 3,604 Superuser

    Hello,

    Thanks for your reponse.

    Just as small repeats from my previous comment in relation with your reply.

    Description of Tracking Protection in UI says mostly about advertisers via tracking cookies. And, so, you confirmed that it is mainly about "tracking cookies".

    But I feel that 'app tracking' is not only about tracking cookies and advertisers. it is can be used against direct transferring some stuff about user or his device. I don't know which or what (because I never though of 'app tracking' protection) - but even stuff like your device's timezone or something like this can be enough for thinking of 'app tracking' behavior (in addition to other metrics). And it can be sent virtually with no relation to advertisers (as such).

    Thus, indeed while on VPN - all your Network traffic should be covered. And, yes, 'tracking cookies' (only certain ones) or connections to known advert's servers are restricted.

    However, what about other stuff in traffic which can be treated as 'app tracking'?

    So, mentioned F-Secure's online guide/help is indeed about some words around app tracking with an advanced view.

    But in the guide it called as "The anti-tracking statistics in Privacy VPN currently only show the total amount of data that was blocked". This is another 'counter' of statistics in Privacy VPN (I see both: traffic protected and tracking cookies blocked).

    The trouble: if so, is it possible to be with overall some GBs of blocked traffic - even if I am not really huge VPN user at all? :) Maybe I will check it now, but thought about this count as about all 'used' network traffic (not the only "blocked" one).

    I mean: we connected to VPN server via Privacy VPN - all consumed traffic will be listed in the "statistics". But F-Secure's online guide says 'total amount of data that was blocked' should be visible. Not 'protected', but 'blocked'. Meaning - all visible 'consumed traffic' is not consumed, but 'blocked' traffic because of app tracking feature.

    However, I think it works differently.

    Thanks!

    Firmy
  • SenT
    SenT Posts: 7 Explorer

    Dear all,

    Thanks for taking the effort to reply!

    On my laptop F-Secure VPN is enabled all the time and the cookie counter does work (wich means, it counts blockings). But I'm still in doubt if F-Secure also protect against data-collecting by apps or computer programs.


    Especially on my phone, where app-tracking is an issue because of a lot of different apps are collecting data. Therefor I rather use DuckDuckGo app-tracking-blocking on my phone. But it use the 'VPN-channel' of F-Secure.

    I do enable F-Secure VPN by hand on my phone when I'm on a network that's used by (a lot of) other people. And that's not often, because I always avoid to connect with open networks or networks protected with a shared password like at airports/trains/campingsites/hotels/restaurants/etc.

    Strange is; the trace-cookie counter is still on zero in F-Secure Android. But the protected internetconsumption are several of GB's.

    When I'm at home I enable the DuckDuckGo app-track-blocking on my phone. There are several massclaims in my country in preparation against e.g. Amazon and Adobe because of data-collecting and dataselling, wich is against the EU GDPR rules. So I conclude therefrom that companies do misuse our data by collecting and selling it to gain a lot of money.

    And as long as the F-secure cookie-trace-counter on my phone is still zero and there's no specification of what data is blocked or protected, I prefer DuckDuckGo wich specifies the blocking.

    But, maybe, my knowledge about VPN is to little to understand the working. I thought that it makes a kind of protected datachannel from me to the VPN-server (e.g. to change my location and IP) and from the VPN server to the internetserver of a website or app. The goals are: no-one can can pick up my data while it's on it's way, and the receiver (website/appserver) doesn't know my IP or country, wich gives a bit of anonymity. But the data-collected info from my phone still reaches the website or app-server.

    Am I right?


    I wish you all a very nice weekend!

    Ukko