How to improve your privacy in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari and Brave

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Regardless of whose side you’re on in Apple and Google’s war for the web, ad industry web trackers remain a pervasive online annoyance. Companies compile reams of data on you as you make your way across the internet. Their goal? To build a richly detailed user profile on you so that you can become the target of eerily accurate and ever-more-clickable advertisements.

But with problems like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, privacy protection has moved much higher up Silicon Valley’s priority list. But you can move it higher still with some easy ways to outsmart tracking.

First is your choice of browser itself. Apple has made privacy a top priority, and that’s reflected in its Safari priorities. But it’s a point of competition for all the browser makers. It’s a core goal for startup Brave, and even Chrome has begun building a “privacy sandbox” despite Google’s reliance on ad revenue.

In all of the browsers listed here, you can give yourself a privacy boost by changing the default search engine. For instance, try DuckDuckGo. Although its search results may not be as useful or deep as Google’s, DuckDuckGo is a longtime favorite among the privacy minded for its refusal to track user searches.

Other universal options that boost privacy include disabling your browser’s location tracking and search engine autocomplete features, turning off password autofills, and regularly deleting your browsing history. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, consider trying one of the virtual private networks CNET has reviewed which work with all browsers.

In the meantime, though, here are some simple settings you can change in your current browser to help keep a good portion of advertising trackers off your trail.

1. Chrome

Chrome

Unfortunately, the world’s most popular browser is also generally thought to be one of the least private when used straight out of the box. On the plus side, however, Chrome’s flexible and open-source underpinnings have allowed independent developers to release a slew of privacy-focused extensions to shake off trackers.

In the Chrome Web Store, click Extensions on the left and type the name of the extension you’re looking for into the search bar. Once you find the correct extension in the search results, click Add to Chrome. A dialog will pop up explaining which permissions the extension will have for your browser. Click Add extension to bring the extension into your browser.

If you change your mind, you can manage or remove your extensions by opening Chrome and clicking the three-dot More menu on the right. Then select More Tools and then Extensions. From here, you’ll also be able to see more about the extension by clicking Details.

Here are four extensions to look at as you get started: Cookie Autodelete, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.

If you’re on Android, sorry: extensions don’t work. So you’ll have to switch browsers altogether to something like DuckDuckGo’s app.

In the same three-dot menu in Chrome, you can also block third-party cookies by selecting Settings, then scrolling down to the Privacy and security section and clicking Cookies and other site data. From here, select Block third-party cookies.

2. Safari

Safari

By default, Safari turns on its proprietary Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool to keep you a step ahead of privacy pests. Even so, the tool hasn’t always worked smoothly since its 2017 debut. Google researchers spotted how Intelligent Tracking Prevention itself could be used to track users, though Apple buttoned down the problem.

Safari 14, announced in June and arriving later in 2020 with new MacOS Big Sur, will be able to tell you which ad trackers are running on the website you’re visiting and give you a 30-day report of the known trackers it’s identified while you were browsing. It’ll also tell you which websites those trackers came from.

To check that blocking is on, open Safari and click Preferences, then Privacy. The box beside Prevent cross-site tracking should be checked. While you’re there, you can also manually delete your cookies. Click Manage Website Data to see which sites have left their trackers and cookies hanging out in your browser. Click Remove next to any of the individual trackers you’re ready to get rid of, or just nuke the whole list by clicking Remove All at the bottom of your screen.

Cookies can be helpful, not just invasive, but for stronger privacy you can block them altogether — both first-party cookies from the website publisher and third-party cookies from others like advertisers. To do so, check the box beside Block all cookies. Apple will start blocking most third-party cookies by default with MacOS Big Sur and iOS 14.

If you’re still looking for another layer of privacy, you can also install helpful extensions from the App Store like AdBlock Plus for or Ghostery Lite for Safari.

3. Edge

Edge

Microsoft’s Edge browser includes some simplified privacy and tracker-blocking options on its Tracker prevention screen. Within Edge, select the three dot menu icon in the top right corner and select Settings. From the menu that then appears on the left, select Privacy and services.

You’ll be offered three settings to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict. By default, Edge uses the Balanced setting, which blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited while still being lenient enough to save most sites from some of the loading problems that may come with tighter security. Likewise, Edge’s Strict setting may interfere with how some sites behave, but will block the greatest number of trackers. Even the Basic setting will still block trackers used for cryptomining and fingerprinting.

4. Firefox

Firefox

Though Firefox doesn’t grant the most control over trackers and privacy, its privacy options under the hood shouldn’t be underestimated. And its default privacy settings are more protective than those of Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

From inside Firefox’s main menu — or from inside the three lined menu on the right side of the toolbar — select Preferences. Once the Preferences window opens, click Privacy & Security. From here, you’ll be able to choose between three options: Standard, Strict and Custom. Standard, the default Firefox setting, blocks trackers in private windows, third-party tracking cookies and cryptominers. The Strict setting may break a few websites, but it blocks everything blocked in Standard mode, plus fingerprints and trackers in all windows. Custom is worth exploring for those who want to fine-tune how trackers are being blocked.

To apply your new tracking settings after you’ve selected your level of privacy, click the Reload All Tabs button that appears.

5. Brave

Brave

When it comes to antitracking tools, Safari’s latest privacy updates are still short of most of those found in the Brave browser. By default, Brave blocks all ads, trackers, third-party cookies and third-party fingerprinters while still achieving blazing speeds. Brave also offers a built-in Tor private browsing mode, a heavy-duty tracker blocking option, and added a built-in VPN for iOS users.

Inside Brave’s main menu, select Preferences to reveal the Settings panel on the left. Select Shields to see a list of privacy options on the right side of the screen. By selecting the Advanced view, you’ll be able to choose which kinds of trackers to block. By scrolling down, you’ll also be able to block login buttons and embedded content from Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. For even more protection and privacy fine-tuning, explore Additional Settings on the left, and select Privacy and security.

Source: Cnet