If you use the wrong browser, companies can track what you do on the internet. They can even find out what you like, what you dislike, how old you are, how you spend your time and a ton more. But it’s not just about privacy and personal data. Security breaches that could compromise your passwords, sensitive information, or even banking data aren’t rare. Luckily, there are still relatively safe ways to surf the web. Using the most privacy-orientated browser means you’ll be browsing the web quite safely. Read on to see what the best browser for privacy is.
What Happens When You Use The Wrong browser?
With the wrong browser, you’re risking quite a lot:
- Having your browsing history exploited by private companies.
- Losing your login credentials for different websites in a breach.
- Accidentally navigating to malware-infected sites.
But it’s not just about the greed of big tech companies and eCommerce websites. Breaches can happen at any time, anywhere on the web, so all the data you have stored on your browser can be accessed by hackers, compromising your saved passwords, bookmarked websites, personal information, and business details. And Chrome, the most popular browser, isn’t a safe place to store that data. For example, a while back they had a breach on their extensions Web Store.
Privacy and security are serious concerns when surfing the web, and using the wrong browser can get you in a lot of trouble. But don’t worry, we’ve comprised a list to help you pick the best browser for your privacy needs.
Tip: if you want to protect your privacy online, be sure to use a good-quality VPN to protect your connection to the internet and encrypt your data. A good and relatively cheap option is Surfshark.
- Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
- 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
- Cheap with many extra options
Best Browsers For Privacy – Top 5
Before we get into it, let’s cover what we take into account when determining what is the best browser for privacy.
First, a lot of privacy issues can be overcome with the right settings. Even using Google Chrome can be safer if you go to Settings > Privacy and Security and deactivate some of its tracking.
We also take anonymity into account. Some browsers have you surf the web in the equivalent of “incognito mode” from the get-go, which ensures a safer and more private navigation (as this lets you start your browsing sessions cookie-free amongst other things).
We also looked at encryption. Browser-based encryption encodes your data in one or more layers of protection whenever you surf the web, so the more the merrier.
Lastly, we also consider additional details like the historical security of the browser, meaning that if significant breaches took place in the past, we’re more likely to not include it here.
Remember that a secure browser is not everything you can do, so make sure you also read our article on how to browse the internet anonymously.
1. Tor Browser
The Tor Browser uses NoScript to mask your prior activity from the websites you’re visiting. It sends your internet traffic through the Tor network, which ensures a great level of anonymity, and it encodes all of your data in three layers of encryption. But the story’s a bit more complicated, so let’s look at the pros and cons of Tor.
|Tor hides your identity, preferences, and any form of personal data by sending your traffic through at least three nodes in the Tor network. Your data is encrypted at every Tor node (server) it goes through. Unless you insert your data somewhere, this makes you incredibly anonymous.||Your connection might be slowed down when using Tor. Unless you’re working with a lot of bandwidth, the traffic redirects and tripple encryption will make your internet run slower. This means you should use Tor for stuff like browsing Reddit, but if you want to stream a movie, you should use one of the other browsers on the list.|
|Tor doesn’t just abstain from recording your internet activity, it even deletes any cookies you installed after any session.||Since Tor lets you roam the dark web freely, it won’t stop you from accessing harmful websites, which could include malware-infected sites, posing great privacy and especially security risks.|
|Tor’s three-layered encryption adds an extra safety net to keep any big company or hacker from stealing your data. Add a VPN on top and you’re a digital ghost.|
Overall, the Tor browser is one of the safest browsers out there. That’s expected from a browser that lets you access the dark web, but you shouldn’t let the association with the worst parts of the internet cloud your judgment of Tor. Edward Snowden himself praised the secure and privacy-aware Tor Browser.
Founded in 2016, Brave is an aesthetic option for your private and secure browsing. It has all the tools you need to keep your browsing private, but it’s not 100% privacy-friendly. There are some cons to using Brave, but other than that, it’s a good browser to use. These are some of the pros and cons of Brave.
|Brave automatically has an adblocker installed. While that’s a good start it doesn’t do anything to keep your data safe. With Brave, however, the ad blocker can also stop marketers from tracking your online behavior.||In April 2019, Brave launched its own ad program, which is understandably confusing for its users. On one hand, it blocks ads from third parties, but on the other, it shows its own ads, which aren’t as targeted and don’t pay any commission to the creators of the content you’re consuming.|
|Brave is intuitive to use, with a sleek interface. Brave also allows you to customize your web browsing in lots of ways.||Although it’s fast, Brave is not as fast as Chromium or Safari.|
|Back in 2018, Brave switched to a Chromium-based infrastructure, making the transition from Chrome even easier (more about Chromium later on).||Brave launched its own cryptocurrency, the BAT (Basic Attention Token), which was intended to allow users to anonymously pay publishers for the content they’re consuming, with a cashback twist on it as well. There are talks about a few agencies monopolizing the currency, but that’s unverifiable. Although the idea seems novel, we don’t exactly recommend using BAT yet.|
|Brave has a few decent security features, including the ability to secure unsafe websites with HTTPS.|
|Brave can block fingerprinting attempts, and it can stop unsafe scripts from loading.|
|Brave is open-source and it loads pages pretty fast.|
Generally, Brave is very safe. It works on a privacy-friendly framework and it has all the tools you need to secure your web surfing.
3. Mozilla Firefox
Without Tor-level encryption, any browser is at a high risk of getting compromised, even if the developers are careful with your privacy. Backdoors are found all the time, and breaches can take place at any minute. That’s why secure browsers have frequent patches and updates, just like Mozilla.
|The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit, so it has no incentive to sell your personal data.||For some people, all of Firefox’s customization can be confusing, and you might not be in tune with what each setting means for your browsing experience.|
|Firefox’s security measures include hiding your location, blocking tracking, and standing in the way of advertisers that want to snatch your personal data. It’s also easy to turn off WebGL and WebRTC features, and offers a password manager.||Firefox is notoriously RAM-hungry, so if you’re using an older computer there might be better options, like Brave.|
You can improve Firefox’s performance by installing certain AddOns, but these are not a part of the standard install.
|Firefox’s “private mode” erases all information you put in as soon as you log off.||Firefox has some compatibility issues, especially with the CSS parts of a site, but there are a lot of active developers constantly fixing these problems, so you should be safe. Just remember to install the best add-ons for privacy on Mozilla.|
|Firefox rewards programmers that find a backdoor in their system and notify them about it. Firefox then patches these backdoors pretty quickly.|
|Since Mozilla is an open-source platform, it’s a transparent browser. If it changes anything to its code that could threaten your privacy, the general public will find out.|
You will have to be careful when using Firefox. They don’t share anything personal unless you give them permission to do so. On top of that, a lot of security measures need to be set-up in advance. You can do that by pressing the shield next to any link and then clicking on “Manage Protection Settings”. A screen will pop up showing a bunch of different security options. If you don’t want to bother ticking every security option you see fit, you can just activate their settings presets. If not, make sure you:
- Block dangerous and deceptive content.
- Query OCSP responder servers to confirm the current validity of certificates.
- Delete cookies and site data when Firefox shuts is closed.
- Always send websites a “Do Not Track” signal that you don’t want to be tracked.
All of these options are available in the “Manage Protection Settings” tab.
Safari is Apple’s default browser, even if a lot of people just download Chrome right after they buy a new Mac. In tune with Apple’s hermetic developing philosophy, it can keep a virus or malicious link from affecting your entire system, and it has a few decent security measures.
|Safari doesn’t let malicious code spread to your connection or browser, and it keeps your data secure in case you clicked the wrong link.||Safari updates very rarely. On one hand, that’s a big red flag in case of breaches and it’d be a big problem for any other platform. On the other hand, considering the air-tightness of Apple’s software, it doesn’t have to be that big of a problem.|
|Safari won’t load suspicious sites, and it’ll notify you of potential danger.||Safari is not as customizable as other browsers in terms of privacy and security settings, though you can overcome that with some extensions.|
|Safari launched a tracking prevention feature, which doesn’t let advertisers use your information, and it helps you stay anonymous when browsing the web by hiding your digital fingerprint.||Like with any other big tech company, there are talks of shady data leaks, and since Safari isn’t open-source, outsiders can’t verify those claims.|
|Safari has a lot of security extensions. They have a simple bookmarking feature, and you get the benefits of iCloud without worrying about sharing your data with Google.|
Safari is a better choice than Chrome, but it shouldn’t necessarily be your top choice. Not without some safety-enhancing browser extensions. If you still want to use Safari, make sure you read our piece on the best browser extensions for online privacy and security.
Chrome is not exactly a safe or private browser choice. But Google Chrome loads fast, has a lot of helpful extensions, and it doesn’t have a bad design either. Chromium has all of the good parts of Google Chrome, but without the infringement on personal data and security concerns.
|Like Mozilla, Chromium is often patched and updated, but it doesn’t eat up as much RAM.||Chromium is kind of like a shell of the fully-fleshed browser you’re used to (Google Chrome). It lacks codecs and a decent flash player. This means that you won’t be able to play videos, or even view pdf files in it unless you get your hands dirty and install software on it yourself.|
|Chromium doesn’t send any data to Google, and it’s open-source, so you have an entire community to help discover security concerns and develop innovative software.||It’s hard to turn off WebGL and WebRTC functions.|
|Since the interface is so similar to Chrome, and since compatibility with extensions won’t be an issue, it’s easy to make the transition from Google’s nosy browser.|
The biggest con is also the reason why Chromium isn’t as great of a browser as some of the others on this list. It’s like Google Chrome, but more private and less user-friendly. Other browsers such as Brave and Firefox are also safe, but they don’t sacrifice as much usability as Chromium does.
Bonus Browser for Mobile: DuckDuckGo Mobile
DuckDuckGo mobile slashes trackers, blocks ads, forces HTTPS connections when it can and it grades websites based on their security. The browser can automatically clear your navigation data, and you can also delete it yourself by clicking the flame icon at the bottom of the browser. DuckDuckGo Mobile is a very good choice for your mobile web surfing needs.
Browsers You Should Avoid
Most browsers we talked about are a good choice (though some better than others). With the exception of some concerns on Safari, you should have a safe trip on the web with all of them. That being said, there are browsers you should avoid if you are privacy-minded.
|Browser||Why it’s not great for privacy|
|Google Chrome||Before I made the shift to Tor, Google stored over 150 unique interests of mine. Google tracks your every move online. Sure, Chrome can be optimized to make your navigation a bit more secure, you can delete your cookies, and you have some wiggle room for customizations. But it’s not a private browser. With a lawsuit accusing Google of sharing data gathered from users in incognito mode too, it’s definitely not the best browser for privacy.|
|Microsoft Edge||We weren’t sure what to do with Microsoft Edge in this round-up. On one hand, it has pretty much the same safety options as Safari, minus the hermetic software of Apple. On the other hand, it’s not that careful with your data either. But we advise against using Edge. You should avoid Microsoft Edge because they had a vulnerability exposed last year, so their security measures don’t always seem to be top-notch.|
|Opera||Opera has the potential of being a secure and private browser. You can make its “incognito mode” the default, you have a lot of security customization options, and the browser also has its own “VPN”. But you’ll want to be careful. Their VPN actually logs your data, which makes it both useless and a privacy concern. Add to this the fact that Opera is owned by a Chinese group, a country known for its disregard regarding privacy issues, and you have plenty of reasons to choose a different browser.|
What Is The Most Secure Browser?
The most secure browser is definitely Tor. It’s got three-layered encryption, a well-oiled network to route your connection, and all the privacy customizations you’d want, most of them enabled by default. Just remember, without a strong internet connection, it might not work for all of your online needs. We recommend using it in conjunction with Brave or Firefox, for when you want to stream something and bandwidth isn’t on your side.
Plus, remember that having the best browser for privacy isn’t enough. There’s more you need to do to stay safe on the net.
Using Browsers The Safe Way
Staying safe and protecting your privacy on the net is a sustained effort in the beginning, but it gets easier with time. When it comes to browsers, here’s what you should do:
- Use an adblocker.
- Clear your data, cache, and history when you turn in for the day.
- Favor sites with HTTPS connections and SSL certificates. If they don’t have that, don’t enter any sensitive information in their fields.
- Start your chosen browser in incognito or private mode.
- Use a safe search engine like DuckDuckGo. Make it your browser’s default search engine.
- Use a VPN to browse the web anonymously. If you’re not sure where to begin, read our article on the best 5 VPNs of 2021.