Change your browser today: The best privacy-focused browsers

Your web browser is probably tracking you right now. Websites can tell a lot about you, particularly if your browser isn’t secure or privacy-focused.

In this guide, we’ll go through some of the top privacy-focused browsers that are worth trying out. We’ll likely publish more detailed guides on how to optimise these sites to protect your privacy. This is a general overview for anyone looking to try a new browser…

Brave (brave.com)

Moving to Brave will remove you from Google’s garden (the ecosystem of accounts) which does make you feel good already.

It has some pretty awesome default settings, so if you don’t want to learn how to set it up or get the right extensions then you don’t need to worry about that.

Brave blocks all advertising and third-party tracking, and its built-in HTTPS Everywhere feature ensures you’re connecting to the most secure version of the website you’re browsing.

You can also opt into advertising (which doesn’t track or collect your data). If you say want to pay a favourite website for their work. It’s an interesting model but one that at least gives people the choice if they want it or not.

Tor (torproject.org)

If you’re looking to preserve your anonymity and privacy this is awesome. We use this one ourselves along with a solid VPN.

Tor essentially routes your traffic across a series of relays keeping your real identity and computer as anonymous as possible. Most people will use as an added virtual peer network (VPN) on top to block their IP address.

The Tor Browser is based on Firefox Quantum, the Tor project is open-source, and comes preconfigured to access the Tor network. The vast majority of built-in plugins and services have been disabled or stripped out. Best to leave them that way, or else data you mean to keep private can leak to the sites you’re visiting. Tor blocks all third-party trackers, clears cookies and histories when you close the browser and tries to make all browser users look identical to thwart any kind of advertising-related fingerprinting.

Tor is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, and you can even get portable versions to use when you need to access the web securely and safely on an untrusted system. That said, Tor is designed for physical and digital anonymity, not security and encryption. What you do while you’re using it may give away that anonymity (sending emails, logging on to web services, etc), and while communications inside the Tor network are encrypted, as soon as you leave the network, your data is in the clear (if it’s not encrypted another way.) It’s not always perfect but definitely is a good bet if you want to browser super privately.

Firefox Quantum (mozilla.org/firefox)

If you’ve been using the web for some time you’ve probably heard of Mozilla’s big Chrome competitor Firefox. Though it’s important to know that Google itself currently supplies a large amount of the nonprofit’s funding.

Firefox Quantum comes with a few privacy-enhancing features that are built directly into the browser. The browser’s enhanced tracking protection blocks third-party tracking cookies based on Disconnect’s lists, and the browser now comes with an anti-fingerprinting feature to make it harder for advertising companies to build a profile around your habit.

There’s also an anti-cryptomining feature to stop sites harvesting your system’s resources to make meagre profits.

Unfortunately by default, the browser doesn’t block advertising but there is plenty of Firefox extensions that can help you with that. Mozilla also have some decent data-collection policies and provides loads of techniques to turn off data collection.

They’ve also got a Firefox extension to stop social networks like Facebook to reduce how they much they track you. And for mobile browsing check out Firefox Focus, a more lightweight and privacy-centric version of Firefox.

DuckDuckGo (duckduckgo.com)

DuckDuckGo began as a search engine to oppose Google’s dodgy data collecting ways. It has now branched out into browsers. Its browsers are available for mobile devices (see below guide), but not on desktop (for that you need to install a Chrome extension).
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DuckDuckGo’s encrypted HTTPS encryptions block advertising trackers from the websites you visit. They also promise not to track your browsing history at all. Much like Ghostery, DuckDuckGo ranks the websites that you visit based on how much they track you. Using its Privacy Grade feature sites from A – F. Be warned: the company says hardly any websites get an A.

DuckDuckGo Mobile (duckduckgo.com/app)

The DuckDuckGo Android- and iOS-only browser packs loads of privacy features: blocking ads, killing third-party trackers, forcing more secure HTTPS connections where possible, and evaluating the privacy characteristics of every website you visit with a special letter grade. If you’re seeing a big fat “F,” it might be time to move on to a site that cares more about data collection.

There’s also a little flame icon in the bottom-centre of the browser that if tapped will clear all of your tabs and data. Tap again, and everything you’ve done on the mobile browser is erased. It’s a quick way to clear your tracks and ensure the browser isn’t storing any of your data.

Tweak Chrome or Firefox for privacy

If you don’t want to download a new browser, moving all of your extensions, bookmarks you can just tweak Firefox and Chrome to be a more privacy-focused browser. For example:

  • Tell your preferred browser to start in incognito or private mode.
  • Enable any bonus features your browser might have, but isn’t running by default, to keep your data safer.
  • Change the default search engine to a privacy-minded website, like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.
  • Install extensions that can help you protect your privacy.
  • Use an ad-blocker, like AdBlock Plus.
  • Automatically clear your cache and history when you shut down your browser.
  • Use HTTPS/SSL everywhere you can.
  • Use a VPN to encrypt all of your traffic.
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