Privacy is a big selling point for many internet users. Many rightfully worry that they’re being identified and tracked online. In the age after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s become obvious that many companies want as much of your personal data as they can get their hands on. In response, virtually every browser has extensive privacy settings to help put your mind at ease.
However, not all browsers are created equally when it comes to security. Here, we’ll go over some of the most popular tools and how their security features stack up.
Chrome is one of the most popular browsers in the world, with several billion users utilizing it as their primary browser. It’s functional, it’s customizable and most websites are designed with Chrome in mind.
That said, Chrome doesn’t have many built-in security features. For example, it doesn’t have an ad blocker — you’ll have to download it separately. On the bright side, it does have private browsing, frequent updates and a large list of security extensions that you can download. It can “sandbox” suspicious websites so your computer is protected even if a site is malicious.
However, this is Google we’re talking about, and its reputation as a data-hungry beast precedes it. To use many of its features, you need a Google account, and the company tracks pretty much everything you do with that account. Google can collect data on what you search for and the websites you visit by default. You can opt to change these settings, but this can limit the functionality of the browser.
While less popular than Chrome, Firefox still maintains a loyal user base of about half a billion people. It claims to be the most secure browser in the world and, while that’s up for debate, it’s certainly a very respectable browser if you want a lot of built-in security.
One particularly nice feature that Firefox has is that it’s open-source, meaning anyone can view its code. This makes security updates very timely, and known security issues don’t stay issues for long. Its “Do Not Track” feature does exactly what it says, keeping tracking cookies away. Its private browsing mode means your history, cookies and passwords are all erased after you close the app.
That said, it’s not perfect. It does collect some personal data for its own analysis purposes by default. Thankfully, you can choose to turn this off, which is more than we can say for the other entries on this list.
When Microsoft finally killed off the relic that was Internet Explorer in 2022, it had already replaced it with an entirely new browser called Edge, which first came around in 2015 but has since been redesigned. The browser actually runs on Chromium, so security extensions that work on Chrome will probably work on Edge.
Edge has a lot going for it on the surface. Its privacy settings are simplified into three options for you to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict. Balanced is the default setting, and this blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited, content and ads are less personalized, and trackers identified as harmful are automatically blocked.
With one click, though, you can change this setting to Strict, which blocks most trackers. There’s very little data collected for personalized ads and content, as well. However, this comes at the sacrifice of some functionality, as you’re likely to run into issues with some sites on this setting.
These are all nice features to have, but Microsoft still collects data for its own use as a price for using the browser. You can opt out of some of it, but you can’t completely turn it off.