Privacy Browsers

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Understanding Privacy Browsers

Privacy Browsers Reviews

cancel chrome and edge

Are you using Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge?

These browsers are the absolute worst when it comes to maintaining any level of privacy.

Privacy issues with Chrome

It’s really important to understand that the entire Google product ecosystem is designed to collect as much information on you as possible.

Why? Google profits off collecting your information, compiling it into user profiles, and then selling ads that target you and your interests as accurately as possible.

And guess what? Most of Google’s revenue comes from advertising.

Chrome is a Google product. Therefore, Chrome is a piece of that super data-collection ecosystem.

So, what data will Chrome collect about you?

The short answer is a lot.

Here is some of what Chrome can and will collect about you, according to Google Chrome’s very own privacy policy:

  • Chrome accepts all cookies, third-party and first party by default
  • On mobile, Chrome will automatically share your location with your default search provider (hint: it’s probably Google)
  • Chrome uses Google Location Services to get your location by possibly sending:
    1. Information on the Wi-Fi routers around you
    2. IDs of the closest cell towers
    3. The current strength of your Wi-Fi or cellphone signal
    4. Your true IP address
  • With search prediction, Chrome automatically sends data what about you’re typing to your default search provider
    1. If the default is Google, your previous search history will be used
  • Can’t connect to a webpage? Chrome sends the URL of the website you’re trying to access to Google in order to give you more suggestions
  • Usage statistics are sent to Google by default. This includes button clicks and preferences but can also include URLs you visited, declared age, gender, and other personal information.
  • “Safe browsing” can scan your entire computer to look for “unwanted software” and will also send Google data about websites you visit
  • Chrome sends session and browser instance identifiers to Google (and possibly the websites you visit)

Much of this data gets stored on Google’s servers even if you don’t sign into your Google Account.

If you sign into your Google account on Chrome, then it’s for sure that your data is being sent to Google’s servers (for “syncing”).

This data is stored for long periods of time and combined with whatever other data (search history, website clicks, emails received/sent, etc.) Google has on you.

While some of the settings within Chrome can be tweaked to be more privacy friendly, doing so is often unnecessarily difficult and/or requires the help of an extension.

For example, disabling WebRTC – which can leak your true IP address to every website you visit even when you use a VPN – is difficult in Chrome when compared to other browsers.

It’s just like fighting an uphill battle.

Privacy issues with Edge

Microsoft is another serial harvester of user data and personal identifiable information.

Like Google, Microsoft runs the Bing-Yahoo search engine and has a considerable stake in the online advertising market share.

However, as you already know, Microsoft is also behind the Office-family of products, Windows, and Xbox.

The biggest privacy issues with Microsoft typically come from their back-end data exchange processes, or simply telemetry.

Telemetry: the process of recording and (automatically) transmitting the readings of a measurements (to receiving-end equipment)

Put very simply: Edge phones home (to Microsoft) about your device and your browsing habits. A lot.

Here is some of the information Edge will collect and most likely send to Microsoft, some of which is outlined in Microsoft’s overall privacy policy and their Edge privacy policy:

  • Edge sends your device’s hardware UUID (universally unique identifier) to Microsoft. For reference, UUIDs can’t be reasonably changed/deleted nor can users opt out of this
  • Edge uses the same Safe Browsing service as Chrome
  • Edge also uses Microsoft’s “SmartScreen.” SmartScreen will send the full URLs of the webpages you visit with Microsoft without anonymization of these URLs
  • When idle, Edge will regularly talk to Microsoft servers and other services such as Skype and SmartScreen without your knowledge
  • By default, Edge will send your browsing history to Microsoft (so this isn’t just limited to the use of SmartScreen)
  • When you’re searching for anything, Edge sends this data to Microsoft to “predict” what you’re going to search by default
  • Edge accepts all cookies, both third-party and first-party, and let’s websites store and read all cookies by default

Since Edge sends identifiers that are heavily linked to your device’s hardware, even when you’re _not_ signed in, this information is collected and stored by Microsoft.

Just like with Chrome, Edge does not make it easy to tweak the privacy settings in your favor.

Additionally, much of the data that Edge sends to Microsoft either cannot be directly disabled, or it’s unnecessarily difficult to change the defaults.

As you can see, it's another uphill battle trying to get Edge to be remotely close to private.

This is where the concept of a privacy browser - a browser that respects your privacy - steps in.

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