Since the advent of the internet, personal privacy is something that is getting increasingly harder to protect. Corporations like Google and Facebook have long benefitted from siphoning user data in order to beef up their profit margins and keep individuals invested in their platforms. Unfortunately, lawmakers and regulators are just now realizing the damage that these companies have done and are scrambling to find ways to help the public better protect their personal information. However, in the meantime, a large part of protecting your own privacy is left up to you, the individual. One of the best ways to help you safeguard your personal data is to use a privacy-focused internet browser.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM?
Before you decide on a privacy-centric internet browser, you should first understand what you need to safeguard yourself against. It’s easy to say that you don’t want companies to acquire any of your personally indefinable or sensitive information. However, unless you know how they actually obtain that information you won’t know what’s important to look for in a browser.
The two main ways that websites and corporations extract data from your browser are via cookies (first and third-party) and fingerprinting. First-party internet cookies are essentially small pieces of data that show what websites you have visited online. For instance, if you go on a website like All Recipes to look up how to make one of your favorite pasta dishes, All Recipes will leave a cookie on your device to signal that you’ve been there before.
Cookies can store things such as log-in information, so the next time you visit All Recipes you don’t have to worry about remembering your user name and password because the cookie will already have that information stored. The primary purpose of a cookie is to streamline your experience using the internet. On the surface, this seems harmless, and more often than not first-party cookies are benign because those websites usually have privacy policies put in place that safeguard the information that you’ve put on your browser.
However, the problem is that many times when you visit a site first-party cookies aren’t the only ones getting left on your device. Third-parties (cookies from a website that you aren’t currently visiting) will often drop cookies, too. More often than not these third-party cookies originate from Google, Facebook, or an independent advertising agency. Dropping third-party cookies gives these companies access to your browsing history and the personal information that you’ve left on the websites you’ve visited along the way. These companies can then take that information and exploit it.
IT GETS WORSE
While third-party cookies are concerning, fingerprinting is far more insidious. Fingerprinting is a practice through which a website gains access to your device’s “fingerprint” via the browser that you’re using. And whereas cookies can be delated, there is no viable way to delete your device’s fingerprint.
This is dangerous because your device’s fingerprint contains information as specific as what browser you are using, what operating system your computer or other device is running on, and any plug-ins you have installed. Fingerprinting can also give the fingerprinter access to things as specific as what language your device is set to, what your screen’s resolution is, and even what fonts you have chosen to install.
This is problematic because it gives many companies the information that they need to build a unique profile based upon your data so they can send things like targeted ads to you, or in some cases exploit your data in far worse ways that could end up compromising your identity. Hence, if you are determined to shield and defend your personal information, then using a privacy-focused internet browser is absolutely essential.
DEFEND YOUR DATA
WHY IT’S THE BEST – If you are familiar with Google Chrome then you are familiar with the raw browser it is based on – Chromium. Chromium is an open-source browser developed by Google that can be freely tweaked and modified. Essentially, Chromium is a framework that a company or developer can take and make their own. Many browsers, such as Microsoft’s Edge browser use Chromium as a framework. However, despite Chromium being open source, it is still tied to Google in many ways, which can be problematic for privacy. Ungoogled Chromium addresses those last ties to Google effectively making this browser one of the best internet privacy browsers there are.
Ungoogled Chromium is a browser that came out of a large-scale open-source project. According to the project’s mission statement, Ungoogled chromium effectively severed all Google-specific code and is free of any trackers or host detectors. Ungoogled Chromium takes advantage of all of the latest and emerging privacy features as it receives daily updates from the collective community. The only downside is that you’ll have to keep track of these updates yourself.
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You can read further about and download Ungoogled Chromium here.
WHY IT’S THE BEST – Brave is the gold standard of privacy internet browsers. Brave is a chromium-based browser that was modified in a way that brings user privacy to the forefront. Brave is ideal for the person looking to protect their privacy without having to dive into the settings of the browser to make sure they are protected properly, because Brave comes with impressive default settings that provide ample privacy protection right from the get-go.
Key privacy features of Brave include its built-in ad blocker and all-too-important browser fingerprinting protection. Brave also has built-in script storage, blocks all 3rd party storage, and automatically upgrades all communication to HTTPS. Additionally, if you frequent the Dark Web Brave also provides one-click access to the Tor network.
WHY IT’S THE BEST – We are recommending Firefox as one of the best privacy internet browsers with a stipulation attached- you must modify the settings in order to achieve optimal privacy protection. However, the good news is that changing the privacy settings to make the browser more secure is exceedingly easy to do. All you have to do is to go into the Privacy & Security settings section and choose between standard, strict, or custom. A more comprehensive explanation of how to go about maximizing your privacy with Firefox can be found here.
Once you’ve got your settings all squared away, some key benefits of choosing Firefox include independent audits, frequent updates, and enhanced tracking disablers. This privacy internet browser is also ideal if you frequently use extensions as there is a sizable number that are compatible with it.
Download and begin customizing your Firefox experience here.
Any of the internet privacy browsers we recommended above will certainly get you well on your way to regaining your privacy and having better control over which hands your personal information falls into. However, in order to truly maximize how well you protect your data, you should consider using a privacy browser in conjunction with a VPN.
A VPN is a tool that will mask your actual IP Address and location to make it appear as though it came from elsewhere. A good VPN will also encrypt your web trail every time you browse the internet. Some solid VPNs to check out include NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN. Lastly, when you are browsing the internet while on the go with a mobile device consider downloading the DuckDuckGo browser via Google Play or the Apple App Store. It’s time to put your privacy back in your own hands.