The best privacy-focused browsers in 2019

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@gershwin.aaronAaron Gershwin

Cyber security copy writer, tech support with a degree in political science

Privacy protection has become a catchphrase for many entrepreneurs and public speakers. In their recent speeches, both Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai elaborated on the importance of privacy, which is ironic, having in mind that Facebook and Google are the two biggest data scrapers around.
Both of these social media giants are relying on ads for profits: Google is using Chrome browser and Google search engine to provide you with better ads while Facebook is pushing them straight to your newsfeed. One way or another user data is crucial for both operations, and Facebook was caught gathering data using Onavo VPN and Research App. Google is getting all that directly through their Chrome browser and search engine.
However, new browsers and search engines are emerging to stand up to the challenge of protecting your privacy. In this article, I will review the three best browser alternatives that are oriented at privacy protection. This is not a ranking from best to worst, all of them have their strong and weak points, and it’s up to the user to choose the one that fits best.

TOR Browser

TOR browser is considered one of the most private ways to surf the internet. It sends all your traffic through a network of volunteer computers (called nodes) encrypting your traffic until it reaches the destination point. In Layman’s terms, instead of giving you straight path from A to B, it randomizes your path sending it through various nodes, making it much harder to track you online.
Furthermore, the TOR Browser does not track your browsing history and automatically clears all cookies after each session. It has integrated NoScript feature that defends visitors against sites that try to fingerprint them or insert malicious JavaScript code. The browser is updated ~two times every few weeks to fix any vulnerabilities that might be exploited by hackers.
However, TOR is privacy (not security) oriented, and it does not have any anti-malware features, so there are recommendations to use a VPN alongside. NordVPN has Onion Over VPN feature that first sends the traffic through the VPN server and then goes through the onion network, benefiting from security features that a VPN in question provides. It’s worth noting that VPN market leaders like NordVPN and ExpressVPN both rank TOR as the best privacy oriented browser.

Brave

Brave is a Chromium(Google’s open sourced browser)-based browser that was created by Brenden Eich, creator of JavaScript and former head of Mozilla. Because of its relation to Google, it received healthy scepticism but over time proved to be an independent and evolving service. It supports most of the Chrome-based add-ons so you can customize it to your liking, UX/UI will not leave wanting more too.
Brave comes with an inbuilt AdBlocker, prevents tracking your online activities, and forces HTTPS on every page by default. Basically, it’s a “de-Googled” Chrome with similar advantages and buffed up privacy protection, and my personal choice for day-to-day browsing. I checked the community reception and found little negative feedback on Brave, here’s what one user on Reddit had to say:
It also displays ads/trackers blocked, HTTPS upgrades and loading time saved, giving you a better view of privacy protection it assures.

Mozilla Firefox/Firefox Focus

Even though Mozilla Firefox is one of the most popular browsers out there, it stands out by being the most privacy oriented, and my advice would be to use Firefox Focus for Android. This version has the “Erase” button implemented that will instantly delete all information about your session. Like browsers mentioned above, Firefox Focus will also disable trackers, auto clear history and other data on session end, and is backed by Mozilla, a global non-profit.
Mozilla Firefox has been audited by German cybersecurity experts Cure53 to find vulnerabilities in their open-sourced code and shared the results with the audiences. This is precisely the behavior you’re looking for when picking a reliable software provider. No one can release a 100% bullet-proof code and companies that willingly submit themselves to security audits show that they care about their users’ safety.
Regarding data collection, they state they’re “up-front and obvious about how and when we’re collecting and using sensitive information. This doesn’t mean that we never collect data; it means we use and share it in a way that is transparent and meets our promise.” Only reliable review sites can back-up such claims and various sites, like PCmag.com, praise Mozilla Firefox for their privacy policies and ability to customize your privacy setting as per image above.

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