Go to page content

Which web browser should you be using?

& how you can delete your data from all of them.

web browser illustration

It’s been a long-time coming, but it’s time to switch to a privacy-focused browser 💪

Some of the most popular browsers in the world are being exposed for buying and selling user data or lacking adequate security measures. We’ll be looking at some popular browsers’ speed, privacy features and convenience and working out which ones are the best to use.

We’ll also let you know:

  • what each browser does with your data ✔️
  • how to delete your data from them ✔️
  • how easy it is to switch from your browser to them ✔️
  • how much we recommend using them in our Rightly rating ✔️

Delete your data from internet browsers

⚠️ Remember: although we'll tell you the standard steps to delete your data from any browser, no browser is completely foolproof. We recommend a look at our article about having more control over your data if you want some additional ways to secure your data across any browser.

Just to make something a little clearer... a browser is a way for you to access the internet (Chrome, Firefox, Safari/all of the ones we’ve talked about) and a search engine is a way for you to browse content on the internet once you have access to it (Google, Bing, Yahoo). So, on a browser you would type in keywords or a question, as soon as you click ‘search’ the search engine kicks in and looks through its index for relevant web pages/URLs to display to you. These results show up on the browser again so you can look through them and click on the web page you want. 😊

🤓 Before we start, we may say that a browser is Chromium based, this means that a browser has been built using the basic structure of Google’s open-source software (‘open-source’ means a browser can be scrutinised by anyone for hidden vulnerabilities and any malicious code). Chromium is fast and has a vast library of extensions, but it has a high RAM consumption (memory usage), doesn’t update automatically and isn’t privacy focused.

Chromium based: Opera, Edge, Chrome, Brave, Epic

Not Chromium based: Tor, Safari, Mozilla

Let us know what you think, or if you have any questions please get in touch: we'd love to hear from you 🌟

Google chrome logo

Google Chrome

Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, it has the most sophisticated algorithm, it gets updated frequently and it’s one of the fastest available. But, this comes at a price. Google is not primarily a search engine, it’s an advertiser. Your privacy is limited because your online activity and behaviour is tracked.

Positives

Chrome is extremely secure. It uses Google Safe Browsing to block suspicious sites and is updated within a day or two of new security features. Part of Chrome is open-source and it encourages hackers to find vulnerabilities in it’s system so it can fix them. Pop-ups are blocked by default. There’s no default ad-blocking but you can download a variety of extensions for this.

What does Google Chrome do with my data?

Chrome makes its profits from knowing everything about you- it collects and sells your data to advertisers so they can show you targeted ads. Worryingly, Android users running Google can’t download tracker-protection software in Play Store because its rules prohibit apps that could interfere with another app displaying ads.

How do I delete my data from Google Chrome?

At the top right of Chrome click ‘More’ then ‘More tools’, and ‘Clear browsing data’. You can choose the time range of data to delete and the type of data you want to delete.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

It’s very easy. On Android, you can download Chrome on Google Play. For any device including iOS you can see Chrome’s website here.

Righty rating 3/5

Chrome is generally secure from hackers and breaches, convenient and functional, but your online behaviour is tracked and sold to advertisers. If you’re going to use Chrome we recommend you use a VPN browser extension for more security.

DELETE MY GOOGLE DATA

Safari_(web_browser)-Logo.wine.svg

Apple Safari

Only available on Apple devices and the default browser for Macs, it’s very close to Chrome in popularity, function and speed.

Positives

Safari alerts you and doesn’t load sites that aren’t secure e.g. have unencrypted payment fields. It runs your tabs in separate sandboxes, which helps prevent a malicious code damaging or accessing your entire browser’s data. It has its own password generator, so is convenient. Safari can store your bookmarks, browsing and password data and more in iCloud so you can synchronize Safari on all your devices. It also helps save it if your device is lost or stolen.

What does Safari do with my data?

Despite Apple’s ad claiming ‘What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone’, Safari makes Google its default search engine and so transfers your searches to Google who notoriously profits from access to your data. Google reportedly paid Apple $9 billion in 2018, and $12 billion in 2019 for this privilege.

Safari also defaults to leak data to multiple third parties like Facebook and Twitter, and allows them to set cookies without any user consent. Although you can change your settings to make Safari more secure, you have to be a bit tech-savvy. Apple has been caught collecting users’ browsing history even when they use private browsing. Apple also participated in the PRISM program- collecting the data and communications that US internet companies held. It’s not reliable in terms of privacy.

How do I delete my data from Safari?

Select ‘Preferences’ in the Safari drop down menu. Click ‘Privacy’ then ‘Manage Website Data’. Finally, click ‘Remove all’ from the dropdown menu.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

You can only load Safari on an Apple product, so not very easy. Here’s how you can make Safari your default browser on Mac.

Righty rating 2/5

Popular and convenient, but most of Safari’s code isn’t open-source and Safari is worryingly updated irregularly and at slower intervals than the other browsers. There’s also a very limited list of extensions available for ad blocking on Safari.

DELETE MY APPLE DATA

Microsoft edge browser logo

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft replaced Internet Explorer with Microsoft Edge, it has better functionality and is just as fast. It’s the default browser for Windows 10 users. But, Edge has a very weak privacy policy and isn't updated frequently.

Positives

Edge uses the Microsoft Defender SmartScreen system as malware and phishing protection which is stronger than Google’s. Edge warns you if a website is ‘not secure’ before you proceed. Edge sends ‘do not track’ requests to sites (though these can be ignored). Edge does block pop-ups but doesn’t block ads, but you can download an adblocker easily as most extensions are compatible with Edge- it’s very functional.

Part of its code is open-source. It has a new ‘Automatic Profile Switching’ feature to help you switch between work and non-work profiles easily, and it's fast- so it’s convenient.

What does Microsoft Edge do with my data?

Edge’s privacy policy is frankly worrying, it’s written unclearly so you don’t know what specific products are being talked about and there’s no mention of selling data to advertisers, so we’re left to assume it does.

Edge definitely collects data to identify your device and ‘diagnostic data’ e.g. information about the websites you visit, for product development. You can limit the data Edge collects on you in settings but if you’re using Windows, Microsoft probably collects your data anyway.

Worse, earlier this year researchers found that Edge sends ‘persistent identifiers that can be used to link requests (and associated IP address/location) to backend servers’ i.e. your data is being leaked.

How do I delete my data from Microsoft Edge?

You can stop data collection for product development in ‘Settings’, click ‘Privacy and services’ and turn off ‘Improve Microsoft products by sending crash reports and data about how you use the browser’.

To clear your data go to Microsoft's online privacy tool. Log in to your Microsoft account, click on ‘Overview’ and then click on whatever section you want e.g. ‘View and Clear Browsing History’. Then, select ‘Clear’.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

If you want, Edge is available on Windows 10, Mac, Android, and iOS. You can scroll down on this Microsoft page to download Edge on all of these types of devices. You can import bookmarks from your previous browser and when you download Edge it’ll give you an introduction tutorial on how to use it.

Righty rating 2/5

Very convenient and functional, Edge has weakness in privacy. Edge is also only updated twice a year- most modern browsers update once or twice a month because malware and scam can techniques can develop rapidly.

DELETE MY MICROSOFT DATA

tor logo

Tor

Famously endorsed by Edward Snowden, Tor lets you browse the internet anonymously using multi-layered encryption. It’s known as the most secure and privacy focused browser out there. This comes at a cost of slightly slower speed and is less convenient for many users.

Positives

Tor bounces your traffic through the Tor network three times, encryption is decentralized, random and operated by volunteers. This multi-layered encryption hides your identity and activity. It also uses NoScript to block third party trackers used for advertising and protect you from any site that tries to ‘fingerprint’ your browsing history. Tor will warn you when you customize your settings e.g. window size, that this can leave you open to hackers.

What does Tor do with my data?

Tor doesn’t track your browsing history and it clears your cookies after every session.

How do I delete my data from Tor?

You don’t need to! If you wanted to be extra cautious you could use Tor with VPN, which is slightly more secure. You can also uninstall Tor if you want.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

Tor Browser is available for Android, on Google Play or directly from the Tor Project. There’s also an app called Onion Browser for iOS. Tor can also be run from a USB flash drive. You can see Tor’s website here.

Rightly rating 4/5

High level encryption means all anyone can see if they’re monitoring your browsing habits is that you’re using Tor, and ads can’t track you. Your data is extremely secure. But, the complex way in which it encrypts your data means connection speed is quite slow. For maximum privacy rather than security, Tor also doesn’t support many plug-ins or have anti-malware technology. A great way to get around this is on desktop, you can use the browser Brave (we look at Brave later) to have some tabs that are running Tor and others that aren't, letting you do all of your browsing side by side.

brave logo

Brave

The same creator of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, created Brave. Brave is a speedy and privacy focused browser. Brave is also known for launching its own ad-network, we’ll go into the details of it later but some users find an ad-network on a privacy focused browser counter-intuitive and intrusive, others think Brave’s way of advertising is an innovative solution to the problem of balancing a user’s privacy and their free access to content on the internet.

Positives

Brave has a default ad blocker so your online behaviour isn’t tracked. It also uses HTTPS (an extension used to secure communication over a network) to secure an unencrypted site. You can block scripts and fingerprinting attempts (when sites access your browser for unique identifying data about your computer that can be used for hacking e.g. your operating system and software). You can also customize your settings to make Brave as secure as you want.

What does Brave do with my data?

Brave doesn’t store any user-identifiable data, your IP address or track your browsing history. Your data is only stored if you opt-in on settings to ‘Rewards’ or ‘Sync’.

But, if you agree to it, Brave can serve you targeted ads. As an attempt to keep sites funded but also keep user privacy, Brave won’t send off your data, they’ll collect it and use it so Brave can display the ads themselves. Brave then splits the profits by paying users (estimated $5 a month), publishers of sites, advertisers and themselves. But, this ad network that uses its own cryptocurrency (BAT) is still in its early stages and we wouldn’t recommend opting into this until more research is done about the security and effectiveness of it. As a general overview, you can see Brave’s community page for how users have been finding it recently.

How do I delete my data from Brave?

Brave allows you to delete any data you want whenever you close the app. You can also click on the Brave icon, then ‘Settings’. Click on ‘Privacy and Security’ and then ‘Clear Browsing Data’.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

You can easily transfer your Chrome extensions as Brave fully transitioned to a Chromium codebase in 2018.

Rightly rating 4/5

Although it gives you more control, customizable settings, like being able to change the size of your window, can actually help make your browser more detectable if a hacker ever tries to fingerprint your browser. The more diverse your settings are the more accurately they can identify you. Recently, Brave was also caught autocompleting URLs of certain cryptocurrency sites with their affiliate links and so getting commissions for every visit to the link. This isn’t a grave privacy violation but is a red flag to the transparency of this browser.

Mozilla firefox

Mozilla Firefox

With over 250 million users, Firefox is a popular and more secure alternative to Google. It’s known for its advanced customization abilities so you can adjust the privacy and security settings to suit you best.

Positives

Mozilla warns you if a site is trying to install add-ons, offers phishing and malware protection, and blocks reported attack websites. You can customize your privacy settings, like blocking cookies, to the level of security you want- standard, strict or custom. It’s fast. It updates frequently so within weeks has the latest security and browsing features.

What does Mozilla do with my data?

Firefox is developed by a non profit organisation and doesn’t sell or buy your data. It does collect some data by default to better understand how people use the browser, such as the status of user preferences, but you can opt-out of this. Pocket and Telemetry are some features that concern users because they’re more vulnerable to hacking but they can be disabled in settings.

How do I delete my data from Mozilla Firefox?

First, click on ‘Menu’, then select ‘Options’ then ‘Preferences’. Select the ‘Privacy & Security’ panel and go to the ‘Cookies and Site Data’ section. Click the ‘Clear Data…’ button and the click ‘Clear’.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

It’s easy! For Android, you can use Firefox focus. If you want to use add-ons that aren’t supported by the latest Firefox release, you can use the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR). If you want to import your cookies and browsing history from another browser, for Windows users: Press ALT + F to bring up the menu bar. Then select Import from Another Browser. Mac users: click on the File menu, then select Import from Another Browser. You can see Mozilla’s website here.

Righty rating 5/5

Unlike most popular browsers, Firefox also is the only one that is completely open-source, so anyone can make sure that their source code is free from tracking software or anything else. Firefox has been thoroughly researched and scrutinized by the community and we trust it.

epic logo

Epic

Every privacy setting on Epic is turned on by default, and it’s focus is ‘extreme privacy’. But, its not open-source and can be less convenient to use.

Positives

Epic automatically sends ‘Do Not Track’ requests to sites, blocks cookies, ads and searches using DuckDuckGo- a search engine that doesn’t show you personalised search results by collecting your data. But, if you want you can still customize Epic to make it more convenient at the expense of your privacy. It's slightly faster than other browsers like Chrome because it blocks tracking scripts. A big benefit is that Epic let’s you see all these privacy gains by tracking how many cookies it’s blocked and who tried to send them.

What does Epic do with my data?

Epic doesn't collect or share any of your personal data. The only data that’s transferred to or from your device to epic servers are updates. Epic isn’t open-source which can be a bit concerning.

How do I delete my data from Epic?

You can uninstall Epic- for Windows users, use the Windows Uninstall Programs. For Mac users, drag the Epic Privacy Browser icon into trash.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

It’s available on iOS and Android! You can download Epic here.

Rightly rating 4/5

There’s no spell-check, auto-fill or plug-ins automatically available because Epic doesn’t store your browsing history, login data or save links for the auto suggestion when typing in an address. All these measures make Epic very privacy focused but also hard to use and less convenient for some users. It depends on what your priorities are.

Opera logo

Opera

Developed in 1995 Opera is considered one of the most popular privacy-oriented browsers. It’s known for being the first browser to have a built-in VPN. But, it’s recent change in ownership led to a surge in privacy and security concerns from users.

Positives

Opera has a built-in ad blocker that protects users from seeing ads and being tracked by sites. Part of its code is open-source. There’s no limit to your bandwidth (the volume of data sent over a connection in a given time frame). It uses military-grade encryption. It’s compatible with many third party extensions.

What does Opera do with my data?

Opera’s default browser collects your data using its own third party tools, you can change this in settings but it can be tricky to find for an ordinary person.

It’s difficult to know exactly what Opera uses your data for. What worries some users is that you can’t be sure which jurisdiction Opera operates in. We do know it’s built-in VPN service is managed by a Canadian company SurfEasy, part of an information-gathering alliance called ‘5 Eyes Surveillance Alliance’. Opera was also sold to a Chinese-based company for $600m, a country known for its privacy violations. It’s very possible that your data is sold to advertisers or even given to law enforcement.

How can I delete my data from Opera?

Open the browser and click on the Opera icon in the upper right corner. Press ‘Settings’ then ‘New…’. Click ‘ Clear Cookies and Data’ and then ‘Yes’.

To delete your browsing history, press ‘Ctrl+H’ to open the history page. In the top right corner click ‘clear browsing data’ and then select what you want to delete and the time range. Click clear data.

How easy is it to switch browsers?

If you really want to, switching to Opera is easy. Opera automatically imports your bookmarks, browser history and saved passwords.

Righty rating 1/5

There’s currently a lot of uncertainty about Opera and what it’s doing with your data so we don’t recommend using it. It’s also a slightly slower browser than Chrome and Mozilla.

I don’t want to change my browser, is there anything else I can do?

Yes! DuckDuckGo is a search engine that we highly recommend using, either on your desktop or as an app on iOS and Android. It never collects your data and unlike other search engines, it doesn’t show you personalised search results.

The browsers that support DuckDuckGo as an extension are: Opera, Edge, Safari, Chrome, Tor (DuckDuckGo is its primary search engine), Brave and Firefox. Epic is the only browser that doesn’t support DuckDuckGo, and they’ve written about why on their page here (the second to last heading!).

Final thoughts 💭

Mozilla is our favourite all-round browser. Tor is our favourite for maximum privacy, and Epic follows closely as a sort-of in between. Brave is also a popular option.

You’ll usually have to sacrifice convenience or speed for privacy, and vise versa- it’s all down to your personal preference. We’ve researched the good, the bad and the ugly about some of the most popular browsers in the world because we think your data is worth protecting, and that it's worth a little time switching to a browser that does this. But, if you don’t want to switch your browser you can always download a search engine like DuckDuckGo to protect your data too.

Find out where your data is

REFERENCES

Analysis:

https://www.expressvpn.com/blog/best-browsers-for-privacy/

https://www.wired.com/story/google-tracks-you-privacy/

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/apples-hypocritical-defense-data-privacy/581680/

https://privacyaustralia.net/opera-vpn-review/

‘Researchers found…’ https://www.scss.tcd.ie/Doug.Leith/pubs/browser_privacy.pdf