Your personal data has become one of the most valuable resources in the world. It has created huge value for tech companies like Google and Facebook, and also for third parties that acquire your data and use it for a myriad of purposes.
Take Cambridge Analytica, for example, which profited off using Facebook user data to target ads, hone messaging, and help propel Donald Trump to the White House. This is a particularly acute example, but many web browsers also track your activity in the form of cookies and other software.
Google Chrome, for example, allows thousands of tracker cookies to monitor your activity. The fact that these browsers can track you enables profiles of your interests and activity, which can be sold to third parties and used to target ads at you. There are more secure internet browsers that prioritize privacy over your data, though.
Below are our five favorite web browsers that minimize the data-scraping. And for added security, invest in a virtual private network that will keep your location data private.
You’re likely quite familiar with Apple’s Safari web browser, but what you might not know is that it holds up better than other mainstream competitors (Google Chrome) when it comes to privacy. Safari has a number of features that are useful for maintaining your privacy online. Its enhanced anti-fingerprinting protections make it harder for advertisers and others to track you through your browser actions. It stops third-party websites from dropping data into your cache by default, which is how many browsers are able to track where you’ve been. Safari will include “Sign in With Apple” — that goes into beta testing this summer — and if you want to hide your email, it can generate and then assign a random email address to you that will auto-forward any emails from the third party to your real email address. Download Safari: https://support.apple.com/downloads
Epic is a great privacy browser but is coming in at third due to the difficulty of its usability. It takes an extreme approach to privacy and is a product of Hidden Reflex, a software company. It removes address bar and url tracking; utilizes a one-click enabled encrypted proxy that hides your IP address and encrypts your browsing so no one can see it; and it requests every website you visit not to track you. This last feature is merely a request, and common across other browsers, but for those, you have to turn it on. Epic asks sites not to track you but backs it up by actively preventing them from doing so. The browser also doesn’t use auto-suggest, doesn’t save your passwords, and doesn’t store your history. These features make the browser more private than others but does make usability a bit of a pain. Download Epic: epicbrowser.com/
Tor is a browser that was developed in 2002 by the non-profit Tor Project and is based on Firefox. It shields both your identity and activity online, by passing your data through three levels of relays as it passes through the Tor network. Any cookies automatically clear when you’re done browsing, as does your browsing history, but it’s the relays that make Tor so useful, and you so hard to track. Tor also allows you to access the dark web, a part of the internet only accessible through software like Tor. One thing to note, though, is that law enforcement and ISPs can see that a computer is using Tor, even if they can’t see what it’s doing. Download Tor: torproject.org/download/
When it comes to privacy and mainstream usability, Firefox leads the pack. The browser was developed by the non-profit Mozilla Corporation, which isn’t in the business of siphoning off your data. Firefox features content blocking, so users can block all tracking mechanisms the browser finds. Unlike some of its less-user friendly privacy brethren, it also offers a large collection of add-ons that you can use and customize to further enhance privacy. Finally, a key aspect of Firefox is that it’s the only mainstream browser that is open-source, so you can go into its source code and ensure there aren’t tracking scripts written into the underlying architecture. Download Firefox: mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
So, when it comes to protecting your privacy online, you can use Firefox when you want privacy and a nice experience; Tor or Epic when you really don’t want to be identified; Brave when you want a clean interface with good privacy features; or Safari if you’re set on using something mainstream but still want a base level of protection against unwanted tracking.