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The best browsers for privacy

It’s difficult to stay anonymous online, and even if you regularly clear your cookies, advertising agencies, criminals, or even nosy friends can still end up with your private information. While browsers can’t protect you from every trap, some are better at helping you maintain your anonymity and surf the web securely.

If you’re concerned about your privacy online, it might be time to say goodbye to Google and check out these secure browsers that our team has compiled.

The best browsers for privacy at a glance:

The best browser for privacy: Brave

Brave Browser screenshot

Brave‘s laundry list of security and privacy features provide enough reasons for this browser to claim the top spot on our list of the best browsers for privacy. But there are a few features worth highlighting, such as its automatic HTTPS connection upgrades; its ability to block ads and scripts and manage cookies; and its native password manager. You can even customize your shield (read: security) settings by site or browser-wide. And if you’re curious to see exactly how well Brave blocks unwanted content and trackers, you can just view the blocking stats on the New Tab page.

Even if you’re not crazy about customizing your own settings, Brave’s defaults are still pretty solid since they automatically block things like phishing and malware.

The best browser for customizable privacy: Firefox

Firefox privacy settings screenshot

For those who want to get specific about how they manage their browser’s privacy and security settings, Firefox is a great option. While Mozilla does heavily emphasize its default settings and the fact that it provides “strong privacy protection from the moment [users] install,” you can still customize a fairly detailed list of privacy and security settings, which include features like the ability to block cookies and third-party trackers and the level of security that you want.

If you want total security, you can opt for the Strict option that blocks every single tracker detected. You can also just use the Standard option that allows you to have the best of both worlds: Better performance and tracker blocking. Firefox’s anti-tracking features are enabled by default, not just when you use its Private Browsing Mode.

The best browser for maximum security: Tor

Tor Browser screenshot on Windows 10

If you’re looking for a browser that’s thought of everything security-wise, Tor Browser might be the browser for you. The Tor Browser handles your security concerns down to the smallest detail. Really — even when you try to maximize your browser window, Tor Browser will warn you that doing so can leave you open to having your computer’s screen size tracked, and it will recommend that you change it back to its smaller, default window size.

Tor also offers other security measures such as the automatic deletion of your browser history and cookies when you’re finished browsing, the blocking of third-party trackers, and protection that includes three layers of encryption for your web traffic “as it passes over the Tor network.”

The best browser for privacy for Mac: Safari

Apple screenshot of Safari browser
Safari website/Apple Inc.

Apple touts that its browser, Safari, is the “best browser for your Mac,” which may very well be the case, at least as far as its security and privacy features are concerned. According to Apple, Safari uses machine learning to prevent the tracking of your data, including your browsing history. Safari can do this by using machine learning to detect advertisers and other trackers and then removing their “cross-site tracking data.” Safari also offers several other helpful security features, including sandboxing, warnings for unsafe websites, Private Browsing (which includes a DuckDuckGo default search engine), and the auto-generation of strong passwords that can be auto-filled and stored for all of a user’s Apple devices.

Safari also works with iCloud Keychain, which is an optional feature that allows you to store and autofill sensitive data. You can easily create, store, and access important information, like usernames, passwords, credit card information, and social media account logins) on any device that you approve. The best part about using iCloud Keychain is that it uses end-to-end encryption to protect all of your sensitive data. The high-level encryption doesn’t even allow Apple to have access to your personal information.

The best P2P browser: I2P

Image used with permission by copyright holder

I2P (Invisible Internet Project) is technically a network layer supported by the Clearnet infrastructure — it uses the internet to enable encrypted P2P connections. Since the network uses a distributed structure, tapping into the connections of specific volunteer users, it’s more difficult to hack than a traditional browser — and an excellent option for P2P activities. It’s entirely free and open-source, but a robust community keeps its security and privacy features well-updated (around 55,000 current volunteered computers make up the core of the network). I2P traffic is fully internal, so data passed through it does not technically reach the internet itself, and location blocking is much less likely to be a concern.

Best of all, I2P has gone through design and functionality overhauls in the past couple of years to make it more friendly to new users. The network has a variety of resources to help newcomers use P2P connections and privacy apps that are a part of I2P. Although you may find it a bit of a time-sink, if you’re seeking a reliable P2P interface for things like file sharing, it’s one of the best modern options available.

Alternative option: Microsoft Edge

new microsoft edge privacy settings screenshot

Despite its brand, you can download the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship browser on other platforms besides Windows, including MacOS, iOS, and Android. Fortunately for users, this means that the new Microsoft Edge could be a great alternative to browsers like Firefox or MacOS’s default browser, Safari. 

Microsoft Edge is the answer for the outdated and slow-paced Internet Explorer browser. Its privacy settings easily stand up to competitors, making it a viable option for internet users. Like Firefox, Microsoft Edge users can choose between three separate “tracking prevention” options to specify their preferred level of security. Those privacy options are labeled as Basic, Balanced, and Strict. After setting your privacy parameters, you can also customize your website access by blocking specific sites from tracking you. You can also block those frustrating pop-up ads and hide your browsing location if necessary. 

Microsoft Edge takes safety a step further, though. The product also features malware defense to boost your system against browser infections and more. The malware defense feature implements a “sandbox” to block dangerous malware from disrupting your system.

The latest version of Microsoft Edge has a feature called Microsoft Defender SmartScreen that serves as an additional line of defense. The product automatically enacts with your browser’s latest update. Microsoft designed SmartScreen in order to freeze accidental virus downloads and reverse unintentional clicks on phishing URLs. SmartScreen also works to notify users if they’ve potentially clicked on a website that could be dangerous.

Anita George
Anita has been a technology reporter since 2013 and currently writes for the Computing section at Digital Trends. She began…
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