The Best Private Browsers to Kill Trackers

In the tech world, online privacy is a key worry, and the most serious privacy concerns come when you explore the internet. Why? Because online advertisers of all stripes are eager to monetise you by tracking your browser behavior and cookies, your IP address, and other device-specific identifiers as you navigate the web.

How Are You Being Tracked Proper Now?

Cookies are little pieces of information that websites save in your browser’s memory to keep track of where you’ve already logged in and other site activities, such as when you have things in an online shopping cart. They’re necessary for making the internet more usable. Third-party cookies are ones that are deposited into your browser by a third party, most commonly Google, Facebook, or an advertising firm, rather than by the site you’re visiting. Other websites then have access to that data, allowing them to search your online history.

Cookies aren’t the only ones who try to invade your privacy. Fingerprinting is a more modern threat that uses web page headers and JavaScript to create a profile of you depending on your system setup. Your browser fingerprint may include information such as browser type and version, operating system, plug-ins, time zone, language, screen resolution, installed fonts, and other factors. That means that even if you disable third-party cookies (Google has said that it will remove support for them in its Chrome browser sometime in 2023), websites may often still use fingerprinting to identify you.

In fact, fingerprinting poses a greater threat to privacy than cookies. You can delete cookies at any moment, but you won’t be able to erase your digital fingerprint unless you obtain a new device. Another issue is the extended string of characters that certain websites add to a web address when you copy it. Those also identify you. ClearURLs, a browser extension, can help prevent you from this type of tracking.

How Can You Forestall Internet Monitoring?

Although a browser can take steps to protect you from these invasions of privacy, keep in mind that private browsing mode—also known as Incognito mode, InPrivate, or simply Private mode—usually does not protect you from tracking. Private browsing mode normally only hides your activity from the local machine’s history, making it impossible for others with access to your device to see where you’ve been on the internet.

Some browsers, such as Edge and Safari, use blacklists to block known fingerprinters, and Firefox is working on a behavioral blocking system that notifies you if a site tries to perform actions that appear to be fingerprinting, such as trying to extract your hardware specs using the HTML Canvas feature. The Firefox tool, which is still in beta, removes identifying data used by fingerprinters.

According to Apple’s website, the Brave browser, Avast Secure Browser, and Apple’s Safari already offer capabilities that hide data including “device and browser information, as well as fonts and plug-ins you have installed.”

Support for more secure DNS protocols is another privacy feature that has recently appeared in browsers such as Firefox and Edge. That’s the server system that your browser uses to convert text web addresses into number equivalents that web servers can understand. Secure browsers now use DoH (DNS over HTTPS) to both encrypt the connection and prevent your ISP from forwarding your unfound browsing queries to their search providers. Read How (and Why) to Change Your DNS Server for additional information on all of this.

How Do You Know if You Are Trackable?

Cover Your Tracks is a webpage created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to test your browser’s vulnerability to tracking and fingerprinting. It conducts its testing using a legitimate tracking business, the name of which it does not reveal. Be aware that your browser almost always states that it has a unique fingerprint. AmIUnique and Device Info are two other tools you can use to see your digital fingerprint.

If you still want to use Chrome or another browser that doesn’t offer any tracking protection, you can use plug-ins like Decentraleyes, DuckDuckGo, PrivacyBadger, or uBlock Origin to help protect your privacy. DuckDuckGo has also announced the release of a standalone private browser, which we’ll include in this roundup whenever it’s available. There is currently a mobile browser and a browser extension available, but no desktop browser.

There is no such thing as perfect security or privacy in life, as there is in everything else. Using one of these browsers, on the other hand, can make it more difficult for entities to trace your internet traffic, to varying degrees.

Apple Safari

Apple Safari Image

At WWDC 2018, Apple was one of the first major tech companies to raise the issue of fingerprinting as a privacy problem. According to Apple’s documentation, the default browser for Apple devices, Safari, provides some protection against this form of monitoring by providing “a simplified version of the system setup to trackers so that more devices look identical, making it harder to figure one out.”

Safari has few privacy settings and only receives a “partial protection” and “some gaps” rating on the EFF Cover Your Tracks test. The “almost” unique fingerprint result, on the other hand, is better than the test’s result for most browsers (including Firefox), which says “Your browser has a unique fingerprint.”

MacOS, iOS, and iPadOS are the platforms available.

Avast Safe Browser

Avast Secure Browser Image

Avast is one of the few browsers with built-in VPN functionality, but it costs $5.99 per month, with savings available if you sign up for a longer period of time. The open-source, industry-standard OpenVPN protocol is used by Avast’s VPN, according to the company. There’s also a one-week free trial that doesn’t require payment information, though Avast has previously provided free services with dubious nonmonetary expenses.

Ad blocking, anti-phishing, and a password manager are all included into the browser. Google is the default search provider, but the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks program claims to give strong tracking protection thanks to a unique (traceable) fingerprinting profile. The Chromium-based browser is attractive and works with most websites.

Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows are the platforms available.

Brave Privacy Browser

Brave Privacy Browser Image

Brave is a browser that prioritizes privacy and ad blocking while also allowing you to earn cryptocurrency while you browse. Brave, like most modern browsers (with the exception of Firefox, Tor, and Safari), runs on a customized version of Chromium, the code that powers Google Chrome, thus it’s compatible with most websites. Brave’s designers intend to make a revolution in the way web commerce works, with direct micropayments replacing rampant advertisements.

Cover Your Tracks, a program from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claims to provide “strong protection against Web monitoring,” and a feature called Shields prevents third-party tracking cookies and adverts by default. Brave uses HTTPS by default (as do most contemporary browsers) and gives you the option of using Standard or Aggressive tracker and ad blocking. Brave also has extensive fingerprinting protections that “randomize the output of semi-identifying browser features” and disable capabilities that are routinely used to sniff device information. Brave was the only browser that the EFF program produced a randomized fingerprint for in our tests.

Brave will display an unobtrusive ad in a box outside the browser window to collect bitcoin incentives, which you can turn off if you want. Basic Attention Token (BAT), a Brave cryptocoin, grew in value by over 1,000 percent at one point, but it is currently only worth roughly 600 percent of what it was when it first launched.

Brave recently announced that it would be releasing its own private search engine, Brave Search, for use in the browser. Curious Brave users can try out the new search engine in beta form via Settings, and users of other browsers can visit search.brave.com for more information. SugarCoat, a new endeavor from the firm, is designed to resist scripts that collect your browser data while retaining site functioning.

Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows are the platforms available.

Bromite

Bromite Image

Bromite is an Android-only browser that is a fork of Chromium, which is a fancy way of saying it’s based on the technology that powers Google Chrome but tweaked to suit its needs. Bromite is a “no-clutter browsing experience without privacy-invasive elements and with the addition of a fast ad-blocking engine,” according to the browser’s website. It’s not in the Google Play Store because the developers decided to keep it as un-Googled as possible. That implies you must grant permission for its APK (application package file) to be installed in your Android Settings.

Bromium’s default search source is Google, despite the fact that you can switch to a private search provider like DuckDuckGo. Bromium, like Safari, was given the “almost unique” fingerprint designation, as opposed to the “unique” designation given to other browsers. That implies it’ll be a little more difficult to pinpoint your specific location. Bromite has its own Fingerprinting Mitigations Test Page, although it’s not easy to interpret the results. Bromite, on the other hand, resembles the Android version of Chrome in appearance and functionality.

Android is a platform.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo Image

DuckDuckGo, the well-known private search engine, now has a standalone mobile web browser. As previously said, the team is working on a DuckDuckGo desktop browser, which we anxiously anticipate. However, the business hasn’t revealed many details about how it plans to manage concerns like fingerprinting.

You can install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension to turn your existing browser into a privacy-focused piece of software until the desktop browser is released. It disables third-party trackers, changes your search engine to one that prioritizes privacy, requires sites to utilize an encrypted (HTTPS) connection wherever possible, and displays a privacy score for each site you visit. Chrome now has a “high protection” rating from the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool.

Platforms: Android, iOS, and desktop browser extensions

Epic Privacy Browser

Epic Privacy Browser Image

Epic Privacy Browser, like Avast and Opera, has a built-in VPN-like feature with its encrypted proxy, which masks your IP address from the rest of the internet. Epic is said to stop advertisements, trackers, cryptomining, and even ultrasound signals, according to the manufacturer. It also prohibits WebRTC and blocks fingerprint tracking programs.

Unfortunately, Epic’s default settings only provide partial protection against tracking advertising and invisible trackers, according to the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool. (The same message appears as in Google Chrome: “Our tests show that you have some protection against Web monitoring, although there are some gaps.”) The findings improve to “strong protection” against web tracking when you press Epic’s umbrella button to enable the built-in version of uBlock.

Apart from the privacy and proxy extension buttons, the browser UI is nearly identical to Chrome’s. It also lacks the particular convenience features present in competitors like as Edge and Opera.

Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows are the platforms available.

Firefox

Firefox Image

Mozilla has long been in the forefront of efforts to improve online privacy. The startup even created a Do Not Track button for browsers, which Google quickly deactivated; this is only natural for a company that generates so much money from tracking consumers. Firefox was also the first browser to provide a private browsing mode, which allowed you to keep your browsing private not just from individuals who had access to your device, but also from other websites.

Social network trackers, cross-site tracking cookies, cross-site tracking cookies in Private Windows, tracking content in Private Windows, cryptominers, and fingerprinters are all blocked by Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection’s Standard setting. At this option, the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool reports “good protection against Web monitoring.” Trackers concealed in adverts, videos, and other site material are blocked in strict mode. To thwart fingerprinters, the fingerprinting protection presently employs a list of known fingerprint trackers, but Mozilla is working on a future release that will make your browser look more indistinguishable.

Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux are the platforms available.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge Image

Even its first Edge successor has now been replaced with a truly modern Chromium-based Edge, putting the cursed Internet Explorer in the rearview mirror. When building Edge, the Microsoft team prioritized privacy, as well as personalization and productivity tools like its Collections for web research. Vertical tabs, compulsory HTTPS connections, sleeping tabs, performance gains, and new accessibility features like increased contrast are all part of the browser’s ongoing evolution. There are numerous benefits to using Edge as your browser.

Edge offers three degrees of tracking protection for privacy: Basic, Balanced, and Strict. According to an Edge blog post, “trackers we recognize as cryptomining or fingerprinting” are blocked at all levels. However, unlike some of the other browsers listed here, there is no attempt to make the browser appear more generic and less distinctive. Secure DNS is also supported by Edge. Edge does offer to tailor your ads in Bing and Microsoft News, which you may turn off and monitor your settings in your privacy dashboard.

Edge receives a “high protection against Web tracking” rating from the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test, but it still reveals that you have a unique, and so trackable, fingerprint.

Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows are the platforms available.

Opera

Opera Image

Opera has a long history of web browser innovation. For starters, an Opera developer invented CSS, and the Norwegian software company was the first to add tabs and integrated search in a web browser. It now includes a free built-in VPN, as well as Opera GX, a gaming browser.

When I remark that Opera has a built-in VPN, PCMag’s VPN experts always correct me, arguing that it should be termed a Proxy, not a VPN. The difference is that a regular VPN hides your IP address from all of your computer’s communication, but Opera’s functionality only affects the browser. Opera advertises itself as a no-logging VPN, which is an important feature to check for when selecting a VPN. AES-256 encryption is used.

Opera’s default settings also prevent adverts and trackers, and the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test found “good protection against Web tracking.” Because it lacks particular anti-fingerprinting capabilities, the same test reports that it presents a unique fingerprint; however, with the VPN/proxy feature enabled, that report changes to “a nearly unique fingerprint,” which is a victory. Opera still distinguishes out from most browsers in terms of giving unique advantages with its Speed Dial and sidebar of quick-access icons to things like messaging services and frequently visited sites.

Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows are the platforms available.

The Tor Browser

The Tor Browser Image

The Tor browser’s slogan is “Protect yourself against tracking, surveillance, and censorship.” It’s the ultimate in privacy protection in a browser, with “strong protection against Web tracking” according to the EFF’s privacy test. It provides a multistep encrypted route for your browsing that makes identifying you very difficult. Because your encrypted traffic passes via at least three nodes, it provides more privacy than a VPN. The first node knows the source but not the destination of the traffic, the middle ones neither know nor do the last, making it nearly hard to trace the traffic back to you. Because the VPN provider has access to both the origin (your browser) and the destination site with a VPN, you must trust the VPN provider. The destinations know you’re using Tor, but not your originating identity, just as VPN exit nodes are known, allowing Netflix and others to ban people from using VPNs.

What’s the drawback? Because it goes through many hops between your device and the internet, it slows down your browsing even more than a VPN would. However, in recent years, installing and starting up the Tor browser has become considerably easier. Furthermore, if you set Tor to its highest level of security and disable JavaScript, a lot of popular websites won’t work—basically anything with interactive content, like YouTube. Tor, in addition to giving anonymity and access to the ordinary web, allows you to view sites that use its own onion protocol that is independent from the standard web, referred to as the dark web.

“Strong protection against Web tracking,” according to the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool, but “Your browser has a unique fingerprint.” Changing the browser’s privacy setting to Safest provides the best protection against fingerprinting. However, because JavaScript is disabled, there isn’t much you can do on the web with that configuration.

Tails, a lightweight Ubuntu-based operating system that runs off a USB drive, provides an even more private alternative to run Tor. Tails does not save or leave any unencrypted data from your browsing session on your computer’s hard disk.

Android, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows

Vivaldi

Vivaldi Image

Vivaldi, an Opera spinoff that also uses the Chromium browser core, is the ultimate in browser customization. Built-in translation, split-window view, tab groups, notes, a link sidebar, and mouse motion support are just a few of the creative features.

Vivaldi has built-in ad and tracker protection, but it doesn’t attempt to block fingerprinters directly. As you can see in the screenshot above, privacy settings are deep, broad, and comprehensive, much like the rest of the browser’s features. The EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test found that Vivaldi with tracking protection enabled provided “strong protection against Web tracking,” yet it still produced a unique fingerprint.

Android, Linux, and macOS are the platforms available.

Final Words

Online privacy is a key issue in today’s tech world, and the largest privacy concerns come while you’re online. Why? It’s because internet advertisers everywhere are eager to monetise your online behavior by tracking things like what pages you visit on a certain computer or mobile device or what cookies you set or what IP address you use.


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