In 2023, keeping your online privacy safe is a top priority, especially when you’re browsing the internet and your personal data is always at risk. The biggest threats come from online marketers trying to use your data for their gain, closely watching what you do online, tracking cookies, IP addresses, and specifics about your device.
The best private browsers act like strong defenders, putting a stop to these invasive practices and giving users a more confidential online experience. The upcoming year offers many choices for private browsing software, each carefully reviewed to give users a good understanding of what they offer.
Exploring these browsers makes it clear that using these tools isn’t just about convenience; it’s a proactive step in taking control of your digital presence. This guide goes beyond a simple list, diving into the details of online tracking, explaining why private browsers are valuable, and suggesting more ways to boost online privacy.
1) Apple Safari –
Apple’s Safari, the default browser for Apple devices, has been at the forefront of addressing privacy concerns related to fingerprinting.This issue was notably highlighted by Apple at WWDC 2018, where the company expressed its commitment to safeguarding user privacy.
Safari takes proactive measures to protect against fingerprinting, a tracking method employed by online entities. The browser accomplishes this by presenting a simplified version of the system configuration to trackers, intentionally making a majority of devices appear identical.
This deliberate obfuscation makes it challenging for trackers to single out and identify individual devices, thereby enhancing user privacy. Apple’s documentation underscores this approach, emphasizing the company’s dedication to providing a more secure and private browsing experience for its users.
Safari, the Apple browser, tries to keep your stuff private, but it’s not perfect. According to a test, it gives “some protection” but also has “some gaps” in privacy. The cool part is that it’s pretty good at hiding your online fingerprint, which is better than many other browsers.
If you go for Apple’s iCloud+ subscription (starts at $0.99 per month), Safari offers an extra thing called Private Relay. This acts like a secret cover for your IP address, kind of like a VPN, making your online stuff even more private and secure.So, even though Safari isn’t perfect, it’s a good choice if you want a decent balance of privacy features.
2) Avast Secure Browser –
Avast is a browser that comes with its own VPN, a tool for more online privacy and safety. But, if you want to use it, you’ll need to pay $5.99 each month. They say their VPN uses a trusted protocol called OpenVPN. You can try it free for a week without giving your payment info.
Avast has offered free stuff before, but watch out for other costs that might not involve money. So, if you’re okay with paying a bit, Avast could be a good choice with its built-in VPN.
Avast Secure Browser is not just about a VPN; it also blocks ads, protects you from phishing, and helps manage your passwords.
It defaults to Google Search, which tracks you a lot, but it does a good job protecting against tracking, even though it still has a unique fingerprint. The browser looks nice, works with most websites, and is based on Chromium. So, if you want an easy and secure browser with extra features, Avast Secure Browser could be a good pick.
3) AX plorer —
AXplorer is a browser all about privacy, like Avast Secure and Opera. What makes it special is it comes with its own digital money called AXIA coin, and you get rewarded with it just for using the browser. It’s kind of like Brave browser’s idea.
Instead of companies like Google making money from everything you do online, AX plorer pays you instead. To earn these crypto rewards, all you have to do is sign up with your email (no complicated stuff) and verify it.
You can get up to 15 cents a day. It might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not into digital money, but AXplorer is a different and interesting choice for those who want something back for their time online.
AXplorer is one of only two browsers, the other being Brave, that does a good job at stopping fingerprinting. Fingerprinting is what trackers use to figure out who you are on the internet, but AXplorer mixes it up to keep you more private.
However, according to the EFF’s CoverYourTracks test, if you use AXplorer with its default settings, it only gives you partial protection against tracking. I tried out its built-in VPN by checking where my IP address was showing, and it tricked the system—it said I was in London when I was actually in New York.
You can pick from four countries, choose random, or go for the closest VPN server. So, if you want a browser that mixes up your online identity and throws trackers off, AXplorer could be a good choice, though you might need to adjust some settings for better protection.
4) Brave Privacy Browser –
Brave Privacy Browser is all about keeping your stuff private and stopping annoying ads. What sets it apart is that it lets you earn some cryptocurrency while you use it. It works well with most websites because it’s built on the same thing as Google Chrome.
But Brave has a bigger goal—it wants to change how online shopping works by using small payments instead of lots of ads.
To earn cryptocurrency with Brave, it shows a small ad now and then outside the main window, but it’s not too in-your-face, and you can turn it off if you want. So, if you want a browser that cares about your privacy and gives you a chance to earn a bit of crypto, Brave is worth checking out.
Brave Privacy Browser takes your online safety seriously. It got a strong rating for protecting against web tracking, according to the EFF’s tool. The browser automatically blocks tracking cookies and ads by default with a feature called Shields. It also makes things more secure by defaulting to HTTPS.
You can choose how strong you want the tracker and ad-blocking to be. Brave goes a step further by randomizing your online fingerprint, making it harder for others to identify you. In our tests, only Brave and Tempest were reported to have this extra privacy feature.
Brave also has other security tools, like a search engine, private messaging app, and something called SugarCoat, which helps stop scripts from collecting your browsing data while keeping websites working smoothly. If you want a browser that’s serious about keeping you safe online, Brave is a good pick.
5) Bromite –
Bromite is an Android browser, sort of like a special version of Google Chrome. It’s made from the same code but tweaked to be cleaner and more private, with a fast ad-blocking feature. You won’t find it on the Google Play Store, though, because it’s designed to be as free from Google as possible.To get it, you have to allow the installation of its APK file in your Android Settings.
Even though Bromite starts with Google as the default search, you can switch it to a private one like DuckDuckGo. Like Safari, Bromite has a “nearly unique” fingerprint, which means it’s a bit better at keeping you less recognizable. It has its own Fingerprinting Mitigations Test Page, but understanding the results might be a bit tricky. Other than that, Bromite looks and works a lot like Chrome on Android. If you want a simple and private browsing experience on your Android device, Bromite is a good choice.
6) DuckDuckGo —
DuckDuckGo, the private search provider, now has a desktop app (still in beta) and a mobile browser app. The browser looks nice and has some cool features. There’s a flame button at the top that’s like a panic button – it lets you close tabs and delete your browsing data in a snap.
The search bar is in the middle, along with clear back and forward buttons. The new-tab page shows buttons for your favorite sites and a list of where you’ve been, also telling you how many trackers it blocked. It’s all about keeping your stuff private. If you want a simple and private browsing experience, give DuckDuckGo’s browser apps a try.
The DuckDuckGo browser comes with some handy features to keep your online experience private. It automatically manages those annoying cookie popups and supports the Global Privacy Control standard.
There’s also Duck Player for watching YouTube without those pesky Google ads – a good reason to try the DuckDuckGo browser . If you prefer to stick with your current desktop browser, you can add extra privacy with the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension.
It blocks trackers, switches your search engine to DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused one, makes websites use a secure HTTPS connection, and even gives you a privacy score for the sites you visit. This extension made Chrome score “strong protection” on the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool, matching the score of the standalone DuckDuckGo browser. So, whether you go for the browser or the extension, DuckDuckGo has your privacy covered.
7 )Epic Privacy Browser –
Epic Privacy Browser is a lot like Avast and Opera. It hides your IP address with a built-in VPN-like feature using an encrypted proxy. Epic claims it does even more by blocking ads, trackers, cryptomining, and even ultrasound signals.
It also stops fingerprint tracking scripts and prevents WebRTC. Although it looks similar to Chrome, Epic focuses on giving you strong privacy while you browse. It’s a good choice for people who want extra privacy features in their web browser.
The EFF’s tool says that Epic Privacy Browser provides only partial protection against tracking ads and invisible trackers with its default settings, similar to what you get with Google Chrome. It mentions, “You have some protection against Web tracking, but it has some gaps.” However, if you press Epic’s umbrella button to turn on the built-in uBlock feature, the protection against web tracking gets stronger, reaching a “strong protection” level.
While the browser looks almost the same as Chrome, except for some added privacy and proxy extension buttons, it doesn’t have the extra convenience features you find in competitors like Edge and Opera. So, if you want more privacy protection, you might need to use Epic’s uBlock feature, even though it may not have all the bells and whistles of some other browsers.
8 ) Firefox –
Mozilla’s Firefox browser is a free and open-source option that has long been a leader in improving web privacy. They introduced the Do Not Track option, although its effectiveness was affected when Google discouraged its use in Chrome. Still, Firefox prioritizes user control, being the first to offer a private browsing mode that hides activity from both device users and other websites.
Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection, especially in the Standard setting, blocks various online tracking elements like social media trackers, cookies, cryptominers, and fingerprints. According to the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool, this setting provides “strong protection against Web tracking.” For even stricter privacy, the Strict mode goes further by blocking trackers in ads, videos, and other site content.
While the current fingerprinting protection uses a list of known trackers, Mozilla is working on updates to make your browser even more anonymous and resistant to fingerprinting. In essence, Firefox is a privacy-focused browser that gives users effective tools to control their online tracking.
10 ) Microsoft Edge –
Internet Explorer is long gone, and Microsoft’s new Edge browser is now based on Chromium, offering modern features. The Microsoft team focused on privacy, customization, and productivity, introducing innovations like vertical tabs, forced HTTPS connections, and sleeping tabs.
Edge provides three levels of tracking protection—Basic, Balanced, and Strict—blocking crypto mining and fingerprinting trackers. While it supports Secure DNS and achieves a “strong protection against Web tracking” (when set to Strict) on the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test, it acknowledges that your browser fingerprint remains unique and trackable. Despite this, Edge stands out with its various features, making it a solid browser choice for users.
11) Mullvad Browser –
Mullvad Browser is different from most others because it’s based on Mozilla’s Firefox code and was created by Mullvad VPN and the Tor project. It looks like the Tor browser but doesn’t have Tor functionality like Brave does. In Mullvad’s leak test, it performs well, reporting no DNS or WebRTC leaks.
The browser comes with the uBlock Origin extension for blocking ads and trackers, and it defaults to the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine. While it nudges you towards Mullvad’s VPN service, which is a PCMag Editors’ Choice, the browser may not have strong protection against fingerprinting, showing a unique fingerprint according to the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test. Despite this, Mullvad Browser offers a unique blend of features with a focus on privacy.
12) Opera –
Opera has a rich history of bringing innovation to web browsers, introducing features like tabs and integrated search. The latest version, Opera One, offers tile-like tab management, an AI chat sidebar, and a faster rendering process. While some call it a proxy instead of a VPN, Opera’s built-in privacy feature applies only to the browser, cloaking your IP address. Opera asserts it’s a no-logging VPN, using AES-256 encryption.
By default, Opera blocks ads and trackers, earning “strong protection against Web tracking” on the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test. It lacks specific anti-fingerprinting features, but with the VPN/proxy enabled, it improves the fingerprinting uniqueness. Opera remains distinctive with its Speed Dial and quick-access sidebar for messaging and frequently visited sites, offering some handy conveniences not found in most browsers.
13)Tempest Browser –
Tempest is a new browser based on Chromium, the same foundation as Chrome, and it comes from the makers of a private search engine with the same name. It’s like Chrome but with added privacy features. The default home page goes to the Tempest search, which can send anonymous usage data and suggest searches.
You can’t change the starting page, but Tempest does offer encrypted search terms and privacy reports for visited sites. In the settings, you get three privacy levels to choose from: No Blocking, Block Trackers (the default), and Block Ads and Trackers—more options than Chrome provides. Even though it resembles Chrome, Tempest brings extra privacy options to the table.
Tempest browser defaults to using Cloudflare DNS, which is better than your ISP’s. In terms of security, it provides Standard Protection or none, not Chrome’s Enhanced Protection, likely to avoid sharing browsing data with Google. On the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test, it stands out by reporting a randomized fingerprint, much like Brave. Despite selecting Block Ads and Trackers in settings, it only gets partial credit for ad and tracker protection. It’s worth noting that the founder, Michael Levit, has committed to donating half the proceeds of Tempest to climate change efforts, despite some past business associations.
14) Tor Browser –
The Tor Browser, standing for “the onion router,” is all about extreme privacy, aiming to shield users from tracking, surveillance, and censorship. The EFF’s test confirms its effectiveness with “strong protection against Web tracking.” Tor achieves unparalleled privacy by routing your browsing through multiple encrypted nodes, making it highly challenging to trace.
It surpasses VPNs by adding extra layers of anonymity. However, this robust protection comes at a cost, slowing down your browsing experience. While Tor allows access to both standard and dark web sites, enhancing privacy may limit your ability to use interactive features like YouTube.
15) Vivaldi –
Vivaldi, a browser derived from Opera and using Chromium code, is all about customization. It offers a range of innovative features like built-in translation, split-window view, tab groups, notes, a link sidebar, and mouse gesture support.
The recent addition of Workspaces lets you organize related browsing sessions. Vivaldi goes the extra mile with built-in ad and tracker blocking, although it doesn’t specifically target fingerprinters. Its privacy settings are comprehensive, allowing users to fine-tune their preferences.
According to the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks test, Vivaldi with tracking protection shows “strong protection against Web tracking,” even though it’s noted for a unique fingerprint. In essence, Vivaldi caters to users who value both a personalized browsing experience and robust privacy features.