Chrome or a Privacy-first Browser

Is it time you ditched Chrome for a privacy-first web browser?

adapted from an article on wired.co.uk July 6, 2019, by Matt Burgess

Like it or not, your web browser has become your online journal. Your searches chronicle your every thought, interest and desire. And it’s likely that you’ve given all that information to Google – one of the world’s biggest advertising companies. The web giant almost has a monopoly over Western internet web search: Google Chrome has 70 per cent of desktop browser use, and increasing. Every search term you tap into Google forms part of your online identity and helps to create a better profile of your interests. The result? You’re worth more money to advertisers.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The last few years have seen the rise of anti-tracking web browsers, which promise to be better at protecting your privacy and want to reinvent how the online advertising ecosystem operates. There may be some trade-offs with the quality of search results – your answer may not be listed on the very first page.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo started its life as a search engine built to oppose Google’s data collection and intrusion on our privacy. It has since branched out into browsers which are available for mobile devices. To use on a desktop you need to install a Chrome extension. Their browsers force HTTPS encryptions to be used whenever possible and blocks advertising trackers from websites you visit. It also vows never to track your browsing history. Available for: iOS, Android, or as a Chrome extension.

FireFox Focus

FireFox has been around since 2002, but Mozilla, the foundation that creates the browser, is trying to set it apart from other big names by putting privacy first. This is most obvious with its supercharged mobile browser FireFox Focus. Focus automatically blocks adverts with hidden cookie trackers and lets you delete all other cookies and browsing history with one button. Mozilla claims because it blocks adverts it will speed-up your browsing. Focus is not yet available foryour desktop.

At present, Mozilla has paused development on Firefox focus for Android. Instead, it is developing a reinvented version of its browser called Firefox preview. This new version doesn’t rely on Google’s underlying browser engine to power its operation. Available for: iOS, Android

Brave

Brave is the newest of the privacy-enhanced browsers and has big aims. It uses blockchain-based tokens as an alternative to traditional web advertising. The browser knows where users are spending their time online and can then issue its own Ethereum-based cryptocurrency tokens to content publishers.

Away from the crypto-aspect, the browser doesn’t store where you’ve been online, it blocks and hides advertising trackers that follow you around the web plus has default settings that block plugins and potential malware. Brave is one of the few privacy-first browsers that has its own desktop version,  rather than providing a plugin that enhances Chrome’s settings. Available for: iOS, Android, desktop

Ghostery

Ghostery started its life as a browser extension that’s designed to block and highlight online advertising tracking. The platform is available as a standalone browser on mobile, but as a plugin for Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge and Safari. It blocks advertising trackers, social media tracking tools, analytical tools, and gives detailed breakdowns on what is operating on every website you visit. Owned and developed by German company Cliqz. Available for: iOS, Android, browser plugins

Tor

You may think using Tor is too onerous to justify your time, but with its layers of encryption and routing through various locations, is the best way to protect your identity online. Plus, in recent years it’s become simpler to use.
In May 2019 the first official Tor browser for Android was released, to add to the iOS and desktop versions. It has significantly advanced privacy and anonymity features. It will block trackers, attempt to make all users appear the same, avoid local blocks of websites from internet service providers all while adding triple-encryption to your traffic. Available for: iOS, Android desktop

Sandra Louise Price

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