A secure browser that protects your privacy is a critical tool for staying safe online and keeping your data secure from third parties. In this guide we are going to be analyzing the most secure browsers that also protect your privacy online.
WARNING: Many browsers today are actually data collection tools for advertising companies. This is the case for Google Chrome, the largest and most popular browser. By collecting data through your browser, these companies can make money through their advertising partners with targeted ads. We see this same privacy-abusing business model with search engines, email services, and even free mobile apps.
Unless properly configured, most browsers contain lots of private information that can be exploited – or simply collected – by various third parties:
In this section we will examine the best browsers based on two main factors:
This guide is not meant to sell everyone on one browser that beats all others. Rather, it is a summary of information about different web browsers that do well with both privacy and security. Choose the best browser for you based on your own unique needs and threat model.
Here are the most secure and private browsers for 2021:
Brave is arguably the most secure browser with simple, out-of-the-box privacy. It is a Chromium-based browser that is fast, secure, and privacy-focused by default. It has a built-in ad blocker and browser fingerprinting protection, while also giving you access to numerous add-ons and extensions. The main developer behind Brave is Brandon Eich, who formerly worked for Mozilla.
To summarize this browser, Brave is based on open-source Chromium, but configured for more privacy. It does well with its default privacy settings and extra features. Here is a brief overview:
Brave can also be used with Chrome extensions, making it an ideal alternative for Chrome. Just download it and you’re good to go.
As one example of these innovations, Brave is currently developing a private search engine called Brave Search. Additionally, Brave continues to improve and innovate with its browser, which is growing in popularity.
Firefox is a great all-around browser for privacy and security. It offers strong privacy protection features, many customization options, excellent security, and regular updates with an active development team. The newest version of Firefox is fast and lightweight with many privacy customization options.
Out of the box, Firefox is not the best for privacy, but it can be customized and hardened, and we show you exactly how in our Firefox privacy modifications guide. Be sure to disable telemetry in Firefox, which is a feature that will collect “technical and interaction data” and also “install and run studies” within your browser.
Within the Privacy & Security settings area, there are many useful customization options for different levels of privacy: Standard, Strict, or Custom.
Another great benefit with Firefox is the ability to use numerous browser extensions that can enhance your privacy and security. We’ll go over some of these extensions further below.
If you want to keep using older add-ons that are no longer supported by the latest Firefox release, you can go with the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR). If you want a privacy-focused version of Firefox for Android, you could try Firefox focus.
Next up we have the Tor browser. The Tor browser is a hardened version of Firefox that is configured to run on the Tor network. By default, the Tor Browser is a secure browser that protects you against browser fingerprinting, but it also has some disadvantages.
Because it uses the Tor network, which routes traffic over three different hops, download speeds with the Tor browser can be quite slow. The default version may also break some sites due to script blocking. Finally, there are also drawbacks with the Tor network itself, including malicious/dangerous exit nodes, high latency, dependence on US government financing, and some consider it to be fundamentally compromised. There are also many websites that block IP addresses originating from the Tor network.
Another option is to use the Tor browser with the Tor network disabled. In this sense, the Tor browser will work like the other browsers we’ve covered above. Additionally, you can simply run a VPN in the background. Like the Tor network, a VPN will also encrypt your traffic and hide your IP, but it will be much faster.
Be careful when adjusting the settings for the Tor browser, however, as this may compromise the browser’s built-in privacy and security features.
Bromite is a Chromium-based browser for Android only (no desktop support). It comes with some great features by default, including ad blocking and various privacy enhancements. Here are some highlights of this browser from the official Bromite website:
Another cool feature we like with Bromite is that you can use custom ad block filters — learn more here. Bromite is under active development and remains a great browser for Android users.
Ungoogled Chromium is an open source project to provide a Chromium browser, without the Google privacy issues:
ungoogled-chromium is Google Chromium, sans dependency on Google web services. It also features some tweaks to enhance privacy, control, and transparency (almost all of which require manual activation or enabling).
ungoogled-chromium retains the default Chromium experience as closely as possible. Unlike other Chromium forks that have their own visions of a web browser, ungoogled-chromium is essentially a drop-in replacement for Chromium.
While some browsers claim to be secure against vulnerabilities, they might not be the best choice from a privacy perspective.
Google Chrome is by far the most popular browser. Unfortunately, it’s a data collection tool as well and not a good choice for anyone looking for privacy.
You can safely assume that everything you do through Google Chrome is collected, saved to your data profile, and used for targeted advertising.
Edge is a Microsoft product.
Just like with Windows, it’s a good idea to avoid Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer, and their newer browser called Edge. Internet Explorer and Edge are also closed-source, so there’s no telling what’s going on behind the scenes, and they’re also not the best for privacy reasons.
Opera also claims to offer a free VPN through the browser. However, it’s not really a VPN and does not offer full system-wide encryption. Additionally, your data is being collected when you use Opera browser and its “free VPN” feature.
One person who analyzed Epic found it to be connecting to Google on startup. This suggests that Epic is not, in fact, de-googled as it claims.
There are many better Chromium-based browsers to consider.
Safari is the default browser for Mac OS and iOS devices. Overall, Safari is not a horrible choice in terms of privacy and tracking protection – but it also cannot be recommended for a few reasons:
On a positive note, however, Apple does somewhat better with privacy than other large companies. The Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default and also implements cross-site tracking protection.
A well-configured secure browser is crucial for protecting your data as you browse the web with privacy.
Finding the best secure browser all comes down to identifying the best fit for your unique needs. Since this is a personal decision with subjective criteria, We tend to avoid recommending only one option for all use cases.