Web browsers have become flooded with ad-sponsored content, making browsers a key battleground for end-user privacy. While Chrome is the most widely-used browser in the world, there are alternative browsers and ways to improve your privacy when using Chrome.
Unfortunately, there's no easy way yet to ensure total privacy, according to Dr. Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and consultant who conducted a large-scale study in 2009-2011. The study revealed how online advertising companies can use web browsing histories to fingerprint individual browsers over time.
Brave is a Chromium-based browser that blocks ads, fingerprinting and ad-trackers by default. In January, Brave announced it reached 50 million monthly active users-- a fraction of Chrome's 3.3 billion users across desktop and mobile.
A recent study by Professor Douglas J. Leith at Trinity College in the University of Dublin rated Brave as the most private browser over Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge. Leith examined how much data browsers communicate to backend servers. Brave prevents IP addresses from being tracked over time and does not share individual browser histories with backend servers. In contrast, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari tagged telemetry data with identifiers linked to web visits.
Chrome's security and patching make it the most secure browser available today, but when looking solely at privacy, Olejnik rates Mozilla Firefox as the best of the pack. So, for those using a multi-browser strategy to improve privacy, Firefox is a must-have.
One of Firefox's most important privacy features is Enhanced Tracking Protection. Mozilla has also borrowed Tor techniques to block browser fingerprinting and, despite its declining monthly active user numbers (it's at 220 million today, down from 250 million a year ago), Firefox developers are on a constant quest to improve tracking-prevention features, such as its work on browser data storage that can be used for tracking users across the web, which goes beyond just stored cookies and targets multiple caches.
Firefox is rich with choices to customize the browser for privacy by typing about:preferences#privacy in the address bar. The "standard" Enhanced Tracking Prevention blocks social media trackers, cross-site tracking cookies, and blocks tracking in private windows, cryptominers, and fingerprinting scripts. There is a "strict" mode too that might break some sites, but there are ways to whitelist Enhanced Tracking Protection for trusted sites. And for those with the time, Mozilla provides a way to customize the privacy feature.
In a seeming reaction to Google's unchallenged dominance in search, some browser makers such as the To web-anonymizing project, made DuckDuckGo the default search engine to ship with its Firefox-based browser.
But it is browser extension and, like all software, there are vulnerabilities that crop up. In March, researchers discovered a cross-site scripting flaw in the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials that could allow an attacker to observe all websites that the user is visiting. Fortunately DuckDuckGo fixed the flaw fairly swiftly for both Chrome and Firefox.
Microsoft also has an interesting take on Google's FLoC. A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet it does not support fingerprinting because users can't consent to it. It is however developing its own alternative to FLoC called PARAKEET, which has similar goals to FLoC, like retargeting browsers over time.
"Like Google, we support solutions that give users clear consent, and do not bypass consumer choice. That's also why we do not support solutions that leverage non-consented user identity signals, such as fingerprinting. The industry is on a journey and there will be browser-based proposals that do not need individual user ids and ID-based proposals that are based on consent and first party relationships. We will continue to explore these approaches with the community. Recently, for example, we were pleased to introduce one possible approach, as described in our PARAKEET proposal. This proposal is not the final iteration but is an evolving document," Microsoft said.
"Disabling scripting on weird or random sites is the biggest impact. Scripting is responsible for most of the most important privacy risks. It is also responsible for the delivery of some web browser exploits. So not having scripting on by default may actually save you from being hacked," says Olejnik.
Of course, there are other approaches users can take too, including using a browser other than Chrome. To this end, Olejnik suggests it is wise to use several browsers for different tasks. You can go to the NoScript website for more information on what exactly the extension does, as well as access an active user community forum to report bugs, propose updates, and troubleshoot issues.
I am a technology journalist with a demonstrated history in enterprise tech, security, and telecommunications. I personally compared each of these browsers to determine what makes them different and which is best for different use cases. I believe these are the top secure browsers available. If a new entry should hit the market, I will promptly review it and update this guide with my findings.
If you're using Chrome, an Incognito Window doesn't hide your IP address. It simply doesn't store your browser history, information you've entered into forms, or what permissions you've given to sites you've visited. Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera all use a similar form of "anonymous" web window for browsing, but they aren't truly hiding your online identity. If you want to block your IP address from being viewed or tracked, you can download a VPN, which masks your IP address so your service provider (or anyone else, for that matter) can't see what you're doing.
Tor is a non-profit organization that researches online privacy. Their proprietary web browser "hides" a user's IP address and activity by relaying it through an in-house network of servers run by volunteers. By bouncing your information around so much, it makes things exceptionally difficult to track, which is great if you don't want your ISP or anyone else spying on your online activity. The Tor browser has seen its fair share of controversy, since it's a popular choice for accessing the deep web: a collection of websites and pages that are inaccessible through traditional means, like search engines. While accessing deep web sites is not in itself a crime, there are quite a few places (like the now defunct Silkroad) that conduct highly illegal activity such as trafficking drugs. But don't let that dissuade you from using the Tor browser itself, or other privacy-focused browsers that use Tor like Brave. Just because some people misuse the technology, that doesn't mean it's a bad browser.
Another great choice for improving your privacy on the web is the Tor browser, which is based on Mozilla's Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR). It's been tweaked to help users use the Tor anonymizing network -- a collection of distributed nodes versus a more centralized design like a VPN service. The Tor browser's default search engine is DuckDuckGo.
While it isn't a mainstream browser choice, the Tor browser is a well-regarded browser for people who don't want to be tracked across the web and it gets updated on a monthly basis by the Tor Project.
However, page loads in the Tor browser can be slower and some sites might not work due to the architecture of the Tor network. Using the Tor browser for Google Search, for example, might require going through additional CAPTCHA challenges to prove you're not a bot. Page loads are also noticeably slower on streaming services like Netflix.
The Google Chrome browser has positioned itself well to serve many devices, and the macOS Yosemite is no different. Despite not providing updates for the operating system anymore, it is still one of the fastest you can use.
If you are looking for the best browser to assure your privacy and security on the web on Yosemite and other old Mac PCs, Tor is the ideal app. It is focused on ensuring that your data is secure on the web against hackers.
Despite not being developed again, Camino is an excellent browser that ticks the right boxes in terms of features on Yosemite. One of the endearing qualities of this browser is its ease of use on Mac.
Safari is the built-in browser for Mac systems, and it is not surprising that it is the recommended browser by Apple. Thankfully, it is no slouch in any of the features users look for in a modern browser.
While you may be familiar with anti-spyware and antivirus software, which react after a threat becomes apparent, safe browsers prevent certain actions from happening in the first place, making it a very proactive way to stay safer on the internet.
Firefox is a robust browser when it comes to both privacy and security. It is easily customizable and offers a lot of privacy features. Firefox is also updated regularly, which helps with threat management.
Google Chrome is a very intuitive internet browser. It is relatively easy to use and secure. Additionally, Google Chrome comes with built-in transparency protection. The safe browsing features warn users when they run into phishing or malware sites. This browser is optimized for multiple devices. However, Chrome does have built-in data collection tools, which sometimes slows it down.
Google Chromium is the open-source version of Google Chrome for people who want more control over their browser. Chromium does not contain the same proprietary code as Chrome does, so in some ways, it is easier to integrate third-party software. The Chromium browser does require manual updates, which can be challenging to maintain. 2b1af7f3a8