The main point of my browser guide is that there is a big difference between security and privacy. While security (encryption, in particular) is an essential tool for privacy, it’s possible to have excellent security with horrible privacy. Everyone benefits from security. The ‘bad guys’ are the hackers who want to steal your identity or infect your computer. So security is highly desired by both the users and the browser makers.
Privacy, on the other hand, is not. So many web services today don’t cost you any money and yet providing those services does. If the product is free, then you are probably the product. More specifically, your information is the product. Collecting and selling your digital exhaust is the primary business model of the internet today. So for your browser to be private, it must not only protect you from data gathering and tracking by the web sites you visit, it must also respect your privacy in and of itself.
Google is an Ad Company
In terms of security, Google’s Chrome (which is by far the most popular browser on the planet) is quite secure. But when it comes to your privacy, Google must be treated as hostile.
Why? Because Google is no longer a search engine company – they’re an advertising company. Google knows a lot about you – more than you can comprehend. Beyond Google Search, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Fiber and of course the Chrome browser, Google also owns Android, Waze, Nest and YouTube. (If you really want to be blown away, see this list.) Just so you understand the sheer volume of data Google has on you, I highly recommend you download your Google data. At the very least, check your Google Dashboard and My Activity.
Switch to Firefox
If you haven’t tried it recently, there’s never been a better time to switch to Firefox as your default web browser (download here). Firefox has been doubling down on privacy as a selling point in the last year or two. They’ve implemented some great new privacy features and tracking protections. While not all of the features are enabled by default, they do offer some excellent privacy settings.
While the Mozilla Foundation (maker of Firefox) still apparently depends on Google money by making it the default search engine, you can (and should) change this to DuckDuckGo. The easiest way to do this is to install the DuckDuckGo extension.
There are other important plugins you should install, as well: uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, LastPass, Decentraleyes, and HTTPS Everywhere. You can find all of this info in my browser guide.
Kicking It Up a Notch: The Tor Browser
If you want take things to the next level, check out the Tor Browser. Created by the Tor Project and based on Firefox, this browser uses the Tor network to hide your IP address, even from the site you’re visiting. It acts as a series of middlemen, protecting the source and destination information. (Note that this process really slows down your browsing experience.)