A practical guide to increasing online privacy and security (for non-techies, too)

Internet security

If we were to make a guess on which browser you are reading this article, we’d be 66% sure that it is Google Chrome. How did we know? Well, simply that is a market share for Google Chrome and it is not undeserved. It is most certainly one of the best browsers currently in the market and it excels in almost everything, except privacy. While Google is offering so many of its products and services for free, they make up in revenue by selling ads. Targeted, personalized and well placed ads all over the web. They manage to do so by collecting all sorts of information on its users, their behaviors, searching patterns, phone usage etc.

This is not paranoid thinking nor conspiracy theory, it is written in their Privacy Policy. Here’s an excerpt, but we encourage you to read the whole document [3].

An excerpt from Google’s Privacy Policy taken on May 15th, 2020.

If you aren’t comfortable with it, there are ways of distancing yourself from Google’s tracking without sacrificing much of your daily routines.

Web Browsers

First and foremost, replacing Google Chrome, should you not agree with Google’s Privacy Policy [3]. Fortunately, Google Chrome is built on Chromium, a free and open source project. It is sponsored by Google and it does not have some of Google’s proprietary features, read more about it here.

This is important to mention because a lot of browsers in the market (and some of our recommended browsers) are built on Chromium and enhanced. This will also make a possible transition to a new browser a lot easier.

Firefox Privacy Settings

Recommendation 1: Firefox browser – it is free and open source and the only major browser on the market that is not built on Chromium (if we exclude Safari which is Mac-only nowadays). It works on any system and it has a healthy ecosystem of extensions. Almost every popular extension for Chrome exists for Firefox as well. Firefox and Chrome are similar in performance and in visual design. Firefox is a bit more customizable, but the reason we are recommending it is the privacy settings and built-in blockers. It is possible to completely turn off history and cookies and browse the web without any fear of leaving any data behind. It would take a few minutes to set up everything properly and after that if you turn on cloud sync, all your settings will be saved in case of using multiple computers or reinstalling the system.

Recommendation 2: Chromium browser – if you cannot leave Chrome that easily, then Chromium is the solution for you. It looks and feels almost the same as Chrome. Sync is available, although it will use Google service for that. Linux users can install it directly from their respective software managers. Windows users will have a bit of trouble in installing it, as it is not as simple as clicking an .exe file. If you are on Windows, following browsers might be more suitable for you.

Notable mentions: Brave browser, Opera browser, Vivaldi browser

Sidenote: If you are using Internet Explorer, you might want to consider switching to Edge or use some of the recommended browsers above.

Final thoughts: Considering everything that is mentioned in this article, changing a browser should be, by far, the most challenging step. While it is not mandatory to do so, it is recommended. The very least anyone can do is install another browser alongside Chrome and try it out. Finally, the next chapter can be applied to Chrome as well.

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