Unfortunately there is a low correlation factor between what most people find the best browsers and what are the best browsers when it comes to privacy and security. If you look at the market share of the most popular browsers, there is one browser that steals the crown without a lot of competition: Google's Chrome. Safari is the only other one that passes the 10% line, the rest merely look like marginal players. Of course, there are billions of browser users in the world, so even the marginal players are used by significant numbers of people, but they fade when compared to Chrome.
I’m assuming here that people use the browser that they like best. In case you are not, you know you do have a choice, right? It’s not even unheard of to use more than one browser on the same system. It does even have some merits:
- Troubleshooting: Is that site really unavailable or is it my browser?
- Segregation: Use one for work and another for home use.
- Privacy: Using multiple browsers can disrupt tracking (although there are better ways).
- Security: Switch to a different browser if your favorite is waiting for a security patch.
In this post we will look at how your choice of browser can contribute to your online safety and privacy. And tell you about some browsers that actually do care about those elements. We will also touch upon some methods to make the browser you like safer and more private.
Why you should care about browser choice
As I have said in the past, a browser is not just a looking glass. When you are browsing websites the information stream goes two ways. Some of the information your browser gives to the websites you visit is necessary for the website to function properly. But sometimes the website owner just wants to have as much information as possible about their visitors: Where are my visitors located? What other websites have they visited recently? Which link did they click to get here? How long did they stay? Where did they go to next? How many free articles have they read. And in many cases the information can and will be used for targeted advertising.
Better security and privacy in your favorite browser
In the past I have written about how to tighten security and increase privacy on your browser. Feel free to read the whole post but here is a summary.
The upside of being able to use browser extensions is that there are many good ones out there that can help you establish a more private browsing experience. Ad-blockers, anti-tracking tools, and security extensions add further protection.
You can also tighten your privacy by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to anonymize your traffic. You have options here, since you can install a VPN to anonymize all your Internet traffic, or you can install a VPN extension that will do so for your browser only. Since a VPN can slow down the Internet connection, the choice will be based on which other programs that need the Internet connection you use and your personal preference.
Better browser choices
Besides using a VPN, you can also look at some alternative browsers that are already optimized for privacy and security. Here is our choice of best privacy browsers:
- The Tor Browser protects your privacy by connecting you to the Internet using the Tor network, which was originally developed by the US Navy and DARPA. It hides your IP address like a VPN, but it doesn't require you to trust a VPN provider, or share your real IP address with one. The Tor browser (which is based on Firefox) also includes a number of privacy features, plug-ins and defaults designed to protect your privacy. The Tor browser is available for Windows, macOs, and Linux.
- Freenet is a peer-to-peer platform for censorship-resistant communication and publishing that is available for Windows, macOs, and Linux.
- Waterfox is a secure and private browser based on Firefox, that allows you to use Firefox extensions. It is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.
- Pale Moon is another Mozilla fork, but it doesn’t work with all Firefox extensions. It is available for Windows and Linux.
- Brave is a Chromium-based browser that blocks unwanted content by default and does not need much tinkering to keep you safe and private. Brave is available for Windows, macOs, Linux, iOS, and Android.
There are some things to consider here, because the best browser for privacy is not necessarily always the best browser for security. But they are closely knit together. And while it is easy to enhance your security outside of your browser, it is hard for another program to stop a browser from leaking information about you. And if you do manage to do so, it is likely to interfere with how well the browser works.
Granted, it may take you a while to get used to a new browser. One thing you can do to make it easier to adapt is to choose a browser that is based on the one, or very similar to, the one you are already using. For example, if you are using Firefox now, have a look at the Tor Browser, Waterfox, or Pale Moon. Whereas Chrome users may find using Brave more intuitive.
So, what is the best browser for privacy and security? Choosing between browsers is hard enough and making that choice for someone else is even harder. But if you try the above and see which one you like best, you will have made a choice that improves your online safety and privacy. Good for you!
Stay safe, everyone!