Beyond private browsing
Most of our favoured internet browsers have a ‘private browsing’ or an ‘incognito mode’ which may or may or not be familiar to you. Beyond those privacy features, there is more to know about data collection, cookies and other aspects. We’ll explain how these work to protect us.
Is incognito mode private?
While undoubtedly offering benefits, private browsing and incognito modes don’t fully protect your online privacy, offer total anonymity or comprehensive data security. However, there are times when private browsing is a must for your online privacy, such as when…
- When you’re using a public computer. If you’re in a library or in a hotel and are using one of their machines, it goes without saying that you should use private browsing to protect any passwords and prevent other users from seeing your search history.
- If you’re using multiple email accounts. No need to log out from one to get into another when in private browsing mode.
- Buying a present. Cover your tracks in style by going private and you share a laptop.
- Browsing a delicate issue. If you want to keep a health concern secret or you’re embarrassed about the site you are about to visit, just go incognito.
The nine best browsers for privacy and security
There’re a number of different internet browsers available for you to use, some of which are more adept at certain functions than others. We have detailed the functionality and prowess of these nine browsers below to help you make the right browser choice for your online privacy needs.
The successor to Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge is now the brand’s fastest flagship browser and, thankfully, can be downloaded on other platforms besides Windows, including iOS and Android.
It offers the same InPrivate functionality at its predecessor. It won’t save the pages you visit, form data, or web searches while in this mode, however, all files you have downloaded and your bookmarks will be saved on your laptop after you shut the InPrivate window.
Developed in 1995 in Norway, Opera has become one of the most popular privacy browsers, although you do have to customise your settings, which might put people off who want a browser to be super-secure by default.
It has a built-in blocker which protects users from being tracked by advertisers and seeing adverts and also a built-in virtual private network (VPN) that allows users to browse the web more securely.
To enable incognito browsing with Opera:
- Open the Opera browser. Click the menu in the upper left corner.
- Choose “New Private Window” to open a private browsing window.
When we talk about security issues with internet browsers, personal data is at the heart of it. While the only web-slinger more popular than Google Chrome is Spiderman, it doesn’t get a recommendation on privacy.
Chrome serves as a data-collection tool for Google and therefore is not privacy friendly. “You can safely assume actions you do on Google Chrome are collected, saved to your ‘data profile’ and will then be used for targeted advertising. As long as you know this, you’ll be better informed before you download the browser.
In contrast to Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari for Mac users is a sensible choice for your security and privacy. Apple tends to create software that help users appreciate their hardware and they are not in the data farming game, in the same way as Google.
Using Safari gives you a few advantages, security-wise. The browser blocks third party cookies (a tiny marker which identifies your computer as you use an online network) by default and also has put in place cross-site tracking protection.
If you plug into Mozilla’s Firefox browser, the out-of-the-box settings offer “strong privacy protection” but if you want to get specific, there are plenty of options to configure. You can choose from a detailed list of settings including the ability to block cookies and third-party trackers, for the level of security that you want.
Firefox’ Strict option blocks every single tracker the web browser detects and it’s worth mentioning that Firefox’s anti-tracking features are enabled as default – not just when you are using Private Browsing mode.
Brave is a solid choice for your internet personal security, with powerful default settings. It sports a built in ad blocker and browser fingerprinting protection (when websites are able to collect information about your browser type, operating system and other key settings).
You’ll also find it manages cookies well and has a nifty native password manager. Definitely one to consider.
Vivaldi browser is based on the open-source Chromium project, which just means it’s as well used as some of the more popular options. There is evidence Vivaldi is prone to collecting and storing some of a user’s data when you install it. As such, it is not high on any list for internet privacy reasons! But if you want high security…
If you want the Alcatraz (high security) of privacy web browsers, Tor is your choice. Tor browser manages you security concerns seriously. For example, you might be maximising your browser window and Tor will ping you a warning that doing so can leave you vulnerable to having your computer’s screen size tracked and will recommend a smaller sized window.
Tor will also offer security measures like auto-deleting your browser history and cookies when you finish browsing; and offers three layers of encryption for your web traffic using its network.
DuckDuckGo is the built-in search engine for the Tor Browser we just talked about as being super secure. As such, you can consider it a safe house within Alcatraz and an alternative to Google, if you’ve downloaded Tor. DuckDuckGo processes 1.5 billion searches a month to Googles 3.5 billion. It works like every other search engine but (crucially) doesn’t track you!
Best mobile browser for privacy
Many of the browsers we’ve looked at already will have mobile versions for use on iOS or Android devices. There are also some specialist options you might like to have a look at:
- Brave – a super all round browser for both desk top and mobile environments.
- Bromite – A secure Chromium-based browser which is available for Android 4.4. and above.
- Firefox Focus – A privacy-enriched version of Firefox for mobile users (Android and iOS).