These days, many of us spend a huge amount of time online browsing the worldwide web.
This could be for business or personal use and we go onto a wide range of websites on a typical day. Given the amount of time we spend browsing on a computer or mobile device, online privacy has become a prime consideration for many people.
This is why more and more consumers are becoming interested in finding the best browser for privacy. In addition, many take steps such as hiding their IP address to stop companies and organizations from tracking their online activities.
In this guide, we'll discuss private browsing and why it is so important. First, we'll suggest our top picks for Internet browsers devoted to keeping your information private and secure. We'll then demonstrate how you can set up private browsing across a number of different common web browsers. Lastly, we'll explain the limitations of private browsing.
In This Guide
What is Private Browsing?
You leave a digital footprint every time you are online. The websites you visit, the searches you conduct through Google, and even the games you play form the backbone of your online persona. If you want to keep this away from the eyes of nosy roommates or protect your data when using public computers, private browsing can help you achieve this.
Private browsing mode is a feature found on most web browsers you use like Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox. How it works is when you enable the feature, it won't keep track of items like your temporary internet file(s), cookies, and form data.
What are Cookies?
Cookies are text files containing your user ID and the site you visited. How it works is when you visit a website for the first time, it downloads a cookie onto your browser. Each time you visit the website thereafter your browser recognizes you've been to the site before.
Companies love cookies because they can use them to market services to you based on your browsing behaviors. To demonstrate, say you were shopping at Amazon for a watch. You declined the purchase but then after visiting another site, you see that same watch advertised.
Related: Learn more about cookies and how to clear them.
What is Form Data?
Form data is inputs made by you when online. A great example is you are wanting to make a cherry pie and need a recipe. When you conduct a search on Google, your web browser will save this data. In the future, if you go to the search bar on Google, you can see the items you researched in the past. This is also called a cache, which is a part of your browser history that can be used by Google and other companies. Although they are indeed using your information, it isn't always for nefarious purposes. Having data stored in your cache allows for web pages and search results to load faster.
Related: Learn how to clear your cache.
Internet Browsers for Privacy
When it comes to finding a web browser, there are various options available.
You need to look for a secure browser that enables you to protect your own and your family's privacy. If you currently have a web browser that does not perform well when it comes to privacy, it is well worth looking for an alternative browser.
From Internet Explorer to Chrome, Tor, and more - there is plenty of choices out there. Below are our top picks of great browsers for privacy.
Search engine giant Google has enjoyed enormous success with its Google Chrome browser. In fact, this browser is the top runner in terms of browser market share with many using it as their default browser. You can benefit from a number of features when you use Google Chrome. This includes excellent browser security such as scanning for potentially harmful downloads and automatic updates to the Google Chrome browser.
In terms of privacy, there are a number of features that the search engine giant offers with Chrome. Some of the features include:
- The pop-up blocker
- The incognito mode
- Do Not Track request facility that helps to maintain your privacy
Chrome users will be familiar with the automatic address bar suggestions that come up when starting to type something in. If you want to further maintain your privacy, you can disable the address bar predictive suggestions. You simply go to Chrome settings then 'show advanced settings'. You then un-tick the prediction service boxes under 'privacy'.
Bear in mind, when you do this the predictions will still be available as a drop-down menu. Therefore, if you do want to quickly get to a site you have been on previously you can just use the drop-down menu and select the site.
Another option for those who want a browser that increases privacy is the Opera browser. With browsers such as Firefox and Chrome information is collected on mass from users. This browser doesn't do that, which appeals to many people looking for the best internet provider for privacy.
Another key point is that Opera became the first major browser to integrate a free VPN for private internet access.
Another option you get with this browser is to erase private data, including cookies and browsing history. This is ideal for those who use a shared PC and don't want others knowing which sites they have been on. It also offers a range of standard features such as a pop-up blocker.
Although Opera includes a free VPN service built into the browser, it doesn't offer the same level of protection that a standard VPN service does. In short: you get what you pay for. Opera's free VPN might suit the average user, but if you tend to handle a lot of sensitive information online, you can compare great VPN services here.
Internet Explorer gets a bad rap as a browser, but it actually offers a standard but strong suite of privacy features.
This is a great option for those who want a secure browser with privacy features that are easy to enable. For many years, this was the most popular internet browser around the world. With its user-friendly interface, it makes website browsing simple.
When you use Internet Explorer, you can use the pop-up blocker toggle facility and send do-not-track requests with ease. These will be sent to the website that you are visiting and any third parties that have content on the site.
Unfortunately, even with these features, there is no guarantee of privacy. However, one thing you can do is subscribe to tracking protection lists through the Tracking Protection facility. This will then stop listed sites from using cookies on your browser.
You can also use Internet Explorer add-ons to enhance privacy. You will find a range of Internet Explorer add-ons for purposes such as ad-blocking, hiding sites from search engine results, and to improve privacy levels.
The Epic Privacy Browser (Google Chromium)
If you are looking for an alternative browser that offers a greater level of privacy, the Epic Privacy Browser is a good choice. This browser is ideal for those looking for security and privacy. It also provides far greater ease than many other ways if ensuring browser security such as a do-not-track browser plug-in.
The latest version of the Epic browser offers a range of benefits. The Epic browser is powered by Google Chromium and the privacy settings are active by default. This means that you do not have to take steps to clear your browsing history and protect your privacy, as no history is retained once you come out of the site. Some features include:
- This secure browser does not allow the use of a browser plug-in
- It will not save browsing history
- It will block third-party cookies.
- It is also able to identify and block ad networks and other networks that try to track when you are surfing the internet.
When you download the latest version of Epic, you can also use the built-in proxy to re-direct your web surfing and hide your IP address. The various features of this browser mean that it is ideal for security and privacy. It is, therefore, becoming a popular choice amongst those looking for the best internet browser for privacy.
Learn More: Learn how to find your IP address and why it is important to keep it hidden here.
The Comodo Dragon Browser
The Comodo Dragon internet browser comes in two forms: The standard Comodo Dragon is a browser that is based on the open source Chromium while the Ice Dragon browser is based on Firefox. The one you choose will, therefore, be based on whether you use Google Chrome or Firefox as your default browser.
With Comodo, you can decide whether you want to use its SecureDNS servers for Dragon or on all applications. This is something that can help to improve browser security and privacy in comparison to bypassing your Internet Service Provider's infrastructure.
This browser also boasts a user-friendly interface and one of its key features is its virtualized mode. This enables it to be isolated from the host system. You will need to install the free anti-virus software, Comodo Internet Security, to use this feature, however.
It is also worth noting that Comodo Dragon is able to block download trackers, which means additional security and peace of mind. When you are browsing the web using this browser it will validate the SSL certificate of the websites you go onto as well as checking its identity details. It is then able to provide you with a risk warning for any dubious site you may go on.
The Tor Browser
If you are looking for a high level of privacy and anonymity online, the Tor browser is a good choice. This browser is more for people that want an advanced level of privacy rather than security. This is because while the Tor network offers various privacy features it does not come with browser plug-in blocks or anti-malware protection.
The Tor network comprises a number of servers operated by volunteers. These are designed to help boost online privacy when surfing the internet. The browser enables you to remain anonymous although this is within certain constraints such as using only https connections.
The Tor browser is built with 'hidden' relay servers and while it does have constraints it also does offer a higher level of privacy compared to many other browsers. Communications are 'bounced' around a network of relays to further enhance privacy in terms of location.
SRware Iron Browser
The SRware Iron browser is based on the same open-source Chromium engine as the popular Chrome browser. However, one of the ways in which this browser offers increased privacy is by not sharing user information with Google.
You can benefit from customizable privacy settings with this browser, which markets itself as an effective alternative to the Chrome browser. It also makes adding a browser extension quick and easy.
Those using Chrome will find it easy to switch to this browser if they want to benefit from a greater level of privacy when online. This is because SRware Iron offers the same features as Chrome but it comes with the added benefit of enhanced privacy. This means that you can private browse with confidence when using this browser.
The Ultrasurf Browser
Those keen to protect their online privacy will find that the Ultrasurf browser could be the ideal choice. It has become known as an anti-censorship and pro-privacy browser and is used by huge numbers of people.
This browser enables you to benefit from:
- Anonymous browsing and surfing
- Speedy and simple clearing of your browsing history
- The ability to easily clear cookies
- The ability to hide your IP address
With this browser, you can more easily protect your identity while online.
The original reason behind the design of this browser was to provide users in China with the ability to browse blocked websites anonymously. However, it is now used across the globe by those who want a browser that has a strong focus on privacy.
Don't expect any flashy designs or user interface. You can see the various options it offers here:
Private Browser Apps for Mac, iPhone & iPad
As you can see, there are plenty of options available in terms of desktop browsers. However, you also need to make sure you have a suitable mobile browser.
Choosing a secure mobile browser will enable you to enjoy greater privacy when on your smartphone or tablet. You may already have a default browser on your device, such as the iPhone Safari browser. However, if the iPhone Safari browser doesn't suit your needs in terms of privacy there are other options.
For instance, instead of the Safari browser on your mobile device, you could opt for Secure Private Browser, which can be downloaded from iTunes. However, the Safari browser does enable you to turn private browsing on or off, so you may not need to switch to an alternative.
Private Browser Apps for Android Devices
When it comes to finding a private mobile browser app for your Android, you can select from a range of options. This includes:
- Orbot, which enables you to connect to the Tor network on your device
- InBrowser, which also enables connection to Tor
- Dolphin Zero browser
- Ghostery browser
- Javelin Incognito browser, which is always in incognito mode
These apps will all enable you to benefit from safe and secure browsing with a high level of privacy on your device.
Why is Private Browsing Important?
Private browsing is important for several reasons. For one, it won't collect your browsing history, form data, or cookies. Therefore, if you are planning a romantic getaway with your loved one and you both use the same computer, they won't stumble onto your plans by accident.
Another reason it can be important is it protects your data from prying eyes. Say you use the library computer often. With private browsing, there's no record of you accessing social media profiles, composing emails and or your search history, making your information less accessible to others.
Limitations to Private Browsing
Private browsing won't keep your online behavior hidden from everyone like your internet service provider. Your router or firewall can keep information on your browser history too, so if you want to add another layer of protection you'll need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
How to Setup Private Browsing
This is an easy feature to set up through your web browser. Below is a look at how to do this with each one:
Safari Browser (mobile devices)
You can use Safari's private browsing feature easily. If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you set it up by:
- Open Safari
- Clicking on the Safari window in window tab located at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen
- Tap on the private tab then click the + icon
To learn how to turn off private browsing, you click on the windows tab and tap on private. This disables the feature.
Google Chrome on Windows and Mac
For Windows and Mac users, it's easy to enable private browsing on Google Chrome.
- Simply open your web browser and look for three dots located at the upper-right corner of your screen.
- Once you click on the three dots, it enables a drop-down menu.
- Scroll down to the new incognito window to select this. For Mac users, you can also find this feature by accessing the File menu.
- After enabling it, you'll see a screen that reads you're entering incognito mode. Your address bar will change colors to denotes this.
- To learn how to turn off private browsing simply close the window you are using.
Pro Tip: It's important to note these steps will also apply if you use Google Chrome incognito mode through an Android or iOS device. Keyboard shortcuts for Google Chrome: Control+Shift+N (Windows) Command+Shift+N (Mac)
For Mozilla Firefox users, you will find the process similar to what Windows and Mac users do.
- First, you click on the three bars located on the top right-hand corner of the web browser.
- Upon doing this it will give you different options with one of them being a new private window.
- Click on this to enable the feature. When you do, you are taken to a browser window that shows what private browsing doesn't save such as history, cookies, and temporary files. Additionally, it shows you what files it does save like bookmarks and downloads.
- While here, you can keep tracking protection on or off. Since websites can choose to track you even with the feature on it isn't as helpful as you would think it should be.
- To turn it off, close the window.
Pro Tip: Keyboard shortcuts: Command+Shift+N (Mac) Control+Shift+N (Windows)
For Windows 10 users, you have access to Microsoft Edge. Enabling private viewing is similar to other web browsers in that you:
- First, you open the browser
- Next, you click the three dots located at the top right-hand corner
- Scroll down to select new InPrivate window
- You'll go to a screen that shows you are browsing InPrivate
- Upon completion, you can disable the feature by closing the window
Pro Tip: Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+P
If you are old school and prefer the look of Internet Explorer, there's a private viewing option for you as well. To access it, you can do the following:
- Open the web browser
- Go to the right-hand corner of the screen and click on the gear icon
- Scroll down to safety
- Then from safety, scroll over to InPrivate browsing
- This takes you to a screen that notifies you InPrivate is on
- Close the window to disable service
Other Options to Enhance Your Privacy
A key point to remember is that if you can also look at using other options to aid privacy such as add-ons for your browser or a browser extension. For instance, if you use Firefox you can choose from a number of Firefox add-on options. You will find the Firefox add-on easy to install and can find options to increase security and privacy.
Another option is to use a privacy cleaner such as East-tec Eraser. A privacy cleaner can help to protect your privacy levels by enabling you to securely delete your internet activities with ease. You can even benefit from a free trial with East-tec Eraser to see whether it is an effective solution for you.
Privacy features on browsers usually come with some standard means to detect viruses, malware, and other malicious software from harming your computer. Although this is a good first line of defense, you may want to use dedicated antivirus software to ensure protection. You can compare antivirus software here.
Related: How to Encrypt Your Email
It is only natural to be concerned about your online privacy and internet safety these days given the amount of time we spend online. Whether you are using a desktop or a mobile device, you should take steps to ensure that you are using the best internet browser for privacy.
Most modern browsers do offer a decent range of privacy features to help increase privacy and avoid online scams. Some are more comprehensive than others. You also need to look at things such as ease of use and security levels in order to make a more informed choice about the browser you choose.