The Best Browsers for Security and Privacy in 2020
Your web browser knows more about you than you think. It knows what web pages you visit, what products or services you are looking for, what items you buy, where you plan to spend your next vacation, as well as your personal information — full name, physical address, email address, phone number, and others. If your browser snitches on you, it could create a complete digital profile of you.
This is why protecting your privacy and online security is a must. You can’t let your personal information be revealed out there and be used by malicious third parties for their monetary gain. And protecting your online privacy starts with choosing a good browser.
We all know that there are several popular browsers in the market right now, each with their own features and advantages. But what you should be looking for is something that would not leak your personal data to advertisers, marketers, government agencies, and even your ISP. You want something that would protect your personal information and block potential threats.
In this guide, we’ll list down the best browsers you can use if you want to protect your privacy when browsing online. If you prefer to use a browser with a built-in VPN, you can check out our list.
If you’re looking to protect your anonymity and privacy from the websites that you visit, using the Tor browser is a great option. Aside from protecting your privacy, it also shields your traffic against tracking cookies and malicious ads. Tor works by routing your traffic through a series of relays meant to keep your identity as anonymous as possible. The only drawback is that Tor is slower compared to other browsers, which is understandable because of the multiple hoops your traffic has to go through to deliver your content safely. But if your focus is anonymity, the Tor Browser does the job perfectly.
Tor is based on Firefox Quantum and is open-source, so it is continuously being improved. It also comes pre-configured so you can easily access the Tor network. Most built-in plugins and extensions are disabled or stripped out by default, and it is important to leave it that way, or else your data will be compromised. Tor also blocks all third-party trackers, and clears histories and cookies after closing the browser. It also tries to mask the identities of the browser users by making them look identical to protect against any kind of advertising-related fingerprinting.
Tor can be used on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. It also has a portable version you can use when you need to access the internet securely through a public Wi-Fi network.
If you are a fan of Chrome, then this Chromium-based standalone browser should feel pretty familiar. This browser is available for Windows, iOS, macOS, and android. Using Brave means browsing out of Google’s ecosystem, which means that you can browse safely without having to worry about the information that you’re sending to Google when logged into your account. Google is the number one information harvester so browsing outside the reach of Google is like a breath of fresh air.
Aside from that, Brave’s default settings are perfect for users who value more data privacy but don’t want to bother actually learning how to make it work or trying to figure out all the add-ons they would need to install to prevent their favorite browsers from tracking their activities. When you use Brave, all advertising and third-party tracking are automatically blocked, without you needing to do anything else. It also has a built-in HTTPS Everywhere feature to ensure that you are always connecting to the most secure version of the webpage you are visiting.
You also have the option to allow advertising, as long as they don’t track your activities or collect your information. You can whitelist some ads if you like to reward your favorite websites’ developers for their work. Although allowing advertising might seem to go against your privacy goals, this advertising setup serves as a reasonable compromise to balance privacy against the financial needs of the content creators.
If you’ve been using the internet for quite some time, you’ve probably used Firefox before. Well, this browser from Mozilla has just gone through a makeover, and the new browser is now called Firefox Quantum. Quantum is a multi-process browser that was written using the Rust programming language. Aside from being fast and efficient, it also comes with several privacy-enhancing features built directly into the web browser.
Quantum’s Enhanced Tracking Protection automatically blocks third-party tracking cookies according to the Disconnect lists. This browser is also with an anti-fingerprinting feature, making it difficult for marketing companies to create a profile based on your habit. Its anti-crypto mining feature also protects your browser and system from crypto miners trying to harvest your system’s resources to earn profits.
Quantum does not block advertising by default, however, Mozilla offers a wide array of Firefox extensions that allows you to accomplish that. It also has robust data-collection policies and security settings to turn off data collection activities on your Firefox browser.
What’s more interesting is that Firefox Quantum is probably the first browser to integrate a social media-blocking feature that reduces how much social networks track your online activities. If you’re browsing on a mobile device, you should check out the stripped-down version of Firefox, called Firefox Focus.
DuckDuckGo for Mobile
Browsing on a mobile device is a popular activity, so ensuring your privacy when using Android and iOS devices is a must. DuckDuckGo for mobile is packed with the privacy features designed for mobile browsing, including ad-blocking, disabling third-party trackers, forcing HTTPS connections where possible, and evaluating the privacy levels of every URL visited using a special letter grade. The letters correspond to the US grading system, where F denotes a failing mark.
DuckDuckGo has a very convenient feature designed to easily clear your tabs and browsing data. Just look for the little flame icon located at the bottom-center of the browser. Tap it the icon and a message will appear asking if you want to clear your data. Confirm the action and everything you’ve done on the browser will be erased. It is a quick and easy way to get rid of your tracks and ensure that the browser is not collecting your data internally. If you don’t want to be bothered to clean your data every time you use the browser, you can configure the browser to automatically delete all of your data every time you restart the app.
Iridium is a Chromium-based privacy-centric browser that is configured to offer more privacy to its users. This browser is a good option for those who want to use a secure browser and can’t let go of Chrome extensions at the same time. This browser is based on the same project that Chrome is based on, except for the modifications included in the Iridium code to boost the user’s privacy.
Iridium is compatible with Windows, macOS, Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, openSUSE, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora, and CentOS devices. It also offers both an installer and a portable version for Windows devices. Unfortunately, there is no mobile version for the Iridium browser for mobile operating systems.
GNU IceCat browser
GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox web browser and is a free software project. This means that the browser is entirely free and is equipped with various privacy add-ons and settings by default.
Here are some of the privacy features of the IceCat browser:
- Https-Everywhere – This extension encrypts your connection with many major websites to make your browsing more secure.
- SpyBlock – This extension blocks privacy trackers when in normal browsing mode. All third-party requests, on the other hand, are blocked when in private browsing mode. This feature is based on Adblock Plus.
- AboutIceCat – This feature creates a custom about:icecat homepage, featuring links that lead to information about this free software and the various privacy features in IceCat.
- Fingerprinting countermeasures – Fingerprinting consists of a series of techniques that lets websites uniquely identify a browser according to the specific characteristics of that particular browser, such as the fonts used. You can’t prevent this information from being tracked, so Icecat has been equipped with features that avoid giving away hints.
Ungoogled Chromium Browser
Imagine using Google Chrome without logging into your Google account: that’s what the Ungoogled Chromium browser feels like. It is an open source project based on the Chromium browser, minus the Google privacy issues.
Ungoogled Chromium Browser also includes some tweaks to improve privacy, control, and transparency, which require manual activation or enabling.
Pale Moon Browser
Another open-source fork of Firefox, Pale Moon focuses on efficiency and customization. It offers great customization options, including support for older Firefox add-ons along with its own lineup of add-ons. Although the design might look a bit dated, what matters is that it’s not overly-cluttered, making it lightweight and fast. Pale Moon is compatible with Windows and Linux devices, and other operating systems in development.
A well-configured web browser is vital for protecting your data and identity as you browse the internet with privacy. Finding the most secure browser all comes down to finding the best fit for your unique needs. There are many web browsers that focus on privacy and security, so you need to weigh the advantages and the privacy features of each of them to find the perfect browser for you.