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Our 6 Best Privacy Browser Picks for Linux and macOS (2021)

/ data privacy, web browsers

Linux and macOS users: avoidthehack! could never forget about you!

While many of the privacy browsers for Windows also work well on Linux and MacOS, naturally we believe that the Linux and MacOS Systems deserved their own list of recommended privacy browsers.

As we must remind you, if you are using Chrome on your Linux/macOS machine, please do yourself a big favor and ditch Chrome.

You're already on Linux, so just make that small leap to a browser that respects yours (and others') privacy!

So, without further ado here are our best privacy browser picks for Linux/macOS users.

Ungoogled Chromium

official updated chromium logo

If you're either 1) using Google Chrome or 2) simply need a Chromium-based browser for whatever reason while on your Linux or macOS machine, Ungoogled Chromium is your best bet.

Ungoogled Chromium is just what its name implies; it is the de-googled version of Chromium.

(Chromium is the open-source framework developed and mostly maintained by Google. It is also the same code-base that regular Google Chrome is derived from.)

Ungoogled Chromium strips the source code and dependencies that make callbacks to Google's servers, such as Google Location Services.

In turn, your privacy is better maintained because your browser isn't directly communicating/sharing information with these remote servers.

Additionally, the default settings for Ungoogled Chromium are privacy friendly as well.

For example, there is no set default for search providers when you open the browser. It's also set to automatically wipe your browsing session - such as cookies and browsing history - when you close it. Both of these features can be changed from within the settings.

This browser is fast, lightweight, and compatible with most Chromium based extensions - including those found in the Chrome Web Store.

It helps that Ungoogled Chromium probably runs its best on Linux, given you're running a compatible distro.

Download Ungoogled Chromium Ungoogled Chromium Setup Guide

Firefox

official firefox quantum logo

Firefox has been around for a long time. It is tried, true, and tested in many ways. It has consistently proven reasonably fast, reliable, and secure.

In fact, nowadays, it is one of the few noteworthy browsers with a significant enough share of the browser "market" that doesn't on a Chromium engine.

Rather, it runs on Mozilla's own Gecko Engine, which is coded with the C++, JavaScript, and Rust (as of 2016, with the introduction of Firefox Quantum) languages.

It is important to understand that Firefox doesn't come configured for user privacy from the get-go.

There are many tweaks - both basic and advanced - to be made before you can call it privacy focused. Additionally, it is highly recommended to install add-ons that help preserve your privacy, such as a reliable tracker blocker.

Firefox has supported Linux systems for a long time, so installing, running, and configuring it should be a breeze.

Download Firefox Configure Firefox for Privacy

LibreWolf

libre wolf logo

LibreWolf is a community-driven Firefox fork that focuses on privacy and security.

Unlike many other Firefox forks, LibreWolf "embraces" Firefox Quantum.

In a sense, it's pretty similar to Ungoogled Chromium in terms of principle; where Ungoogled Chromium strips the Google out of Chromium, LibreWolf places an emphasis on stripping all Mozilla telemetry and Mozilla-dependent services from the Firefox source code.

LibreWolf comes with many of the privacy and security-related about:config settings already tweaked out-of-the-box. This helps make LibreWolf more universally user-friendly, as there are less settings for the average user to worry about.

Additionally, LibreWolf comes with uBlock Origin, a privacy-focused and privacy respecting wide spectrum tracker bocker, already installed and ready to go. It's already configured to utilize private search engines such as Searx or Qwant.

Since LibreWolf cuts out a lot of bloat from the Firefox source code, it's pretty lightweight and fast. It consumes less resources and is responsive on most systems.

LibreWolf is updated frequently, and it appears to keep up with the latest stable Firefox source code.

Download LibreWolf

The TOR Browser

official tor logo

If you didn't know already, the TOR browser is a hardened version of Firefox that is configured to run on the TOR network. Additionally, it is free, open source, and managed by the Tor Project.

(TOR = The Onion Router)

Tor directs your traffic through a worldwide relay, which makes it significantly harder for a website to 1) identify you/your device and 2) trace your internet activity directly to you, the user.

The more relays or "layers" put between you and your ending destination, the harder it is for a website to trace your activity back to you. This fact makes Tor the best option for combating internet tracking and fingerprinting practices. However, this relay hopping often makes connection times suffer.

This concept was originally - and somewhat surprisingly - introduced by personnel at the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) in the mid-1990s.

Before using Tor, you should be aware that while it does a good job protecting your privacy, it does make you stick out like a sore thumb.

This means that most websites are going to know that you're using Tor (not necessarily that it is you using it) and may adjust accordingly. You may be denied services/access to a website while using Tor.

Additionally, be aware that Tor doesn't hide your internet activity from your ISP (Internet Servie Provider). If you need to mask your internet activity from your ISP, you're much better off using a good VPN service.

Download TOR

GNU IceCat (Linux Only)

official gnu icecat logo

This browser hasn't been updated in a long time. Please use caution if you plan to use/test this browser. We're currently considering dropping it from our recommendations for this reason.

GNU IceCat is a fork of Firefox, maintained by GNUzilla as the "GNU version of Firefox." Furthermore, IceCat is a part of GNU's free software project.

Since IceCat is a fork of Firefox, you avoid contributing to Chromium monopolization. Even more, if you're not a fan of Mozilla's outward political statements or the proprietary code bits found in Firefox's source code, you dodge that front too.

IceCat comes with privacy friendly features built right into the browser. A few of these include:

  • SpyBlock - a tracker blocker that is based off Adblock Plus.
  • LibreJS - blocks "nontrivial" and proprietary JavaScript from executing in the browser. It allows "trivial" and "free" JavaScript to be executed.
  • HTTPS everywhere - forces a secure connection with the websites you visit
  • Anti-fingerprinting - attempts to counter the ever-evolving fingerprinting practices found on the web today.

Additionally, GNUzilla maintains a library of free plugins for IceCat.

IceCat boasts zero proprietary code in its source code.

Once upon a time, GNU IceCat was available and actively developed for both Windows and macOS. In recent versions, it appears GNUzilla has scaled back support to only Linux systems.

You can download the binaries or assemble the browser from source yourself.

Download GNU IceCat

Badwolf (Linux Only)

bad wolf logo

Out of all the browsers on this list, Badwolf has the smallest footprint on your system's resources.

That's because it's described as a "minimalist" browser. Apparently, its core functions use less than 500 lines of code and it makes use of components that already exist.

Naturally, this makes the browser blazing fast.

Also, while being exceptionally minimalist, it is still focused on preserving user privacy. Badwolf doesn't track you at the browser level (read: send data about your browsing habits to any remote servers) and disables JavaScript as a default.

It has its own containers for different tabs - what's open in one tab isn't "known" by any other. This proves helpful in preventing cross-site tracking scripts from tracking you across the web.

Badwolf is based on the WebKitGTK+ framework. WebKitGTK+ is an open source project that is ported from the WebKit engine. As a result, it can handle native WebKit extensions.

You can download pre-assembled packages for your appropriate distro or assemble Badwolf from source yourself.

Download Badwolf

A word on Safari (macOS only)

If you're a macOS user, then you already know that Safari is the default browser for your Mac; much like Edge is the default browser for Windows machines.

However, unlike Microsoft Edge, Safari isn't absolutely terrible for privacy. Don't get it twisted - it is far from the best, and I wouldn't call it a privacy browser.

But it does have a leg up from Edge, and with the appropriate tweaks, Safari can be somewhat decent at blocking some level of tracking.

For example, as of the Big Sur (and iOS 14) update, Safari now allows you to view what websites are tracking you via its Privacy Reports.

However, it does very little for combating fingerprinting practices, even once tweaked.

Also, Safari, like Edge and Chrome, does phone home to Apple quite a bit. Apple says what data is collected is anonymized, but we have no way of knowing for sure.

Furthermore, most of this telemetry can be disabled, but does that necessarily mean they're not collecting anything? It's hard to say.

Officially, Apple's Safari hasn't been released for Linux distros despite macOS and Linux both deriving from UNIX.

(What's even more interesting is that Apple stopped support for its Windows version of Safari a couple years ago.)

Final thoughts

Linux has come a long way in recent years; there are no shortage of browsers that you can use across many of the most popular distros.

Of all these browsers available for Linux, naturally you have a smaller amount that are truly privacy oriented. However, Linux users certainly have options - in fact, some of these options aren't even available to macOS or Windows users.

On Linux, it is imperative that you pick a privacy browser that runs well on your system configuration/Linux distro.

As always, stay safe out there!

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