The Best Web Browsers for Privacy & Security

A secure browser that protects your privacy, and keep your personal data secure, is arguably the most important thing you can do to better protect your privacy and security on the internet. However, most of the default web browsers don’t come with all the bells …

A secure browser that protects your privacy, and keep your personal data secure, is arguably the most important thing you can do to better protect your privacy and security on the internet.

However, most of the default web browsers don’t come with all the bells and whistles, this article will discuss the best browser recommendations, their features, and drawbacks of other web browsers.

Consider switching to a Modified Mozilla Firefox with privacy-enhancing add-ons like uBlock Origin, Decentraleyes, and Firefox Multi-Account Container.

Modern web browsers are complex programs with JavaScript and Browser engines — Apple, Google, and Mozilla have created their engines to render web pages:

StewardBrowser EngineJavaScript / ECMAScript EngineUsage
AppleWebKitJavaScriptCoreSafari Browser and all browsers on iOS.
GoogleBlinkV8Google Chrome and all Chromium-based browsers like Microsoft Edge, Brave, etc.
MozillaGeckoSpiderMonkeyMozilla Firefox, Tor Browser, GNU IceCat, Waterfox, etc
Different Browser Engines & JavaScript Engines

Blink is a fork of the WebCore component of WebKit, which was originally a fork of the KHTML and KJS libraries from KDE. It’s unfortunate to see that an original KDE project (KHTML) has been warped by Apple/Google.

Chromium is the open source browser project, powered by Blink and V8, that powers a huge host of browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Brave, Opera, etc.

Just like Chromium, there are browsers like Waterfox, GNU IceCat, Pale Moon, etc. are powered by open source Mozilla Firefox, which uses Gecko and SpiderMonkey.

Your browser contains a lot of private information like:

  • Browsing and download history  all the web pages you have visited and things you have downloaded
  • Login credentials  all your usernames and passwords that are saved in the browser
  • Cookies and site data  files that contain your preferences, used to identify your browser on the websites
  • Cached images and files  images and files that are downloaded when you visit a website
  • Autofill information all kinds of personally identifiable data like names, addresses, emails, etc
  • Hosted app data  data from web apps you’ve installed

All of this personal data combined with attacks from spyware, malware, cryptominers leaves your browser with a pretty large attack surface.

That’s not all — there are severe privacy and security exploits like browser fingerprinting, WebRTC leaks, WebGL based attacks.

The web browser also sends a lot of data, voluntarily, every time you visit a website, discussed below in the browser fingerprinting section.

Browser Compartmentalization

As already discussed in Firefox privacy and security guide, you should be using different browsers for different scenarios.

Compartmentalization is the key to taking control of your online identity.

I recommend using different browsers for online accounts and web browsing so that you can stay logged in without getting tracked online.

  • 1st Browser  preferably a Chromium-based Brave so that you can use things like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Google Earth, and accessing online accounts like your Mail, Calendar, Social Media, etc
  • 2nd Browser  preferably a Modified Mozilla Firefox with all the privacy-enhancing add-ons for general web browsing.
  • 3rd Browser preferably Tor Browser for extreme privacy and security.

You can also use Firefox Multi-Account Container along with User-Agent Switcher which can help containerize the site data and spoof your user agent.

You can also use Qubes OS, a security-focused desktop operating system that aims to provide security through isolation of all the running software programs.

Browser Fingerprinting

As already discussed in Firefox Privacy and Security Guide, before you choose a browser and tweak its settings or install an add-on, you should consider your browser’s fingerprint (or device’s fingerprint).

Device Fingerprinting or Browser Fingerprinting, initially developed for security purposes, is a tracking technique capable of identifying individual users based on their browser and device settings.

This is done, partly, so that websites can display correctly, every time you visit a web page.

Your browser voluntarily sends information about its configuration like operating system, browser type, available fonts, screen resolution, language settings, add-ons, and a lot more.

These details essentially make up the ridges of your digital fingerprint.

Daniel Kessler wrote an amazing article discussing browser fingerprinting and its prevention.

You can check for browser fingerprinting by visiting Cover Your Tracks (formerly Panopticlick) by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The problem is that if this combination of information is unique, it will facilitate identification without any tracking tools like cookies.

The ironic aspect of this is that the more measures you take to avoid tracking, the more unique your browser fingerprint becomes.

This is the why it is strongly discouraged to install new add-ons, or change settings on Tor browser.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is a fantastic web browser from Mozilla that checks all the boxes of privacy, security, updates, and open sourceness.

It can be easily customized, comes with lots of strong privacy features, gets frequent updates and is completely open source.

Firefox comes with Enhanced Tracking Protection with three levels: Standard, Strict and Custom.

Firefox supports tons of great browser extensions and add-ons, there is a Recommended Extensions Program which lists all the safest, highest quality extensions.

There are numerous privacy and security features that Mozilla has baked into the browser like DNS over HTTPS, HTTPS-Only Mode, Firefox Multi-Account Containers, etc.

Why Firefox is Great for Privacy and Security:

  • Powered by Mozilla — a non-profit dedicated to open and healthy internet.
  • Open source code that has been audited by third parties
  • Built-in Tracking protection from Social media trackers, Cross-site cookies, Cryptominers, and Fingerprinters.
  • Frequent security patches and updates
  • Highly customizable for better privacy
  • Awesome developer tools
  • Awesome privacy features like HTTPS-Only Mode, DNS over HTTPS, Multi-Account containers, etc.
  • Abundance of awesome privacy-enhancing add-ons.
  • Privacy-focussed versions for phones — Firefox Focus for Android and iOS.

I have compiled all the Firefox privacy tweaks and add-ons.

Brave Browser

Brave is the best Chromium-based browser that is fast, open source and comes preconfigured with all the best privacy, and security settings.

It is created by Brendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla project. Brave, by default, blocks all kinds of ads and trackers, and has built-in protection against browser fingerprinting.

Brave browser has the added benefit of working flawlessly on websites like Google Earth, Hangouts, Skype online, etc. as it is powered by Chromium, instead of the Blink engine of Firefox.

There are also some interesting features like Private Window with Tor Connectivity, Brave Tokens, etc.

Why Brave is great for Privacy and Security:

  • Based on Chromium open source project
  • Built-in ads and scripts blocker
  • Protection against Fingerprinting
  • Enhanced Private browsing with Tor
  • Secure enhancement to HTTPS using HTTPS Everywhere
  • Abundance of great add-ons thanks to chromium
  • Option to help your creators with Brave Rewards

Brave gives you options to support your favorite publishers with Brave Rewards, or get compensated for paying attention to Brave Ads.

Both Brave Rewards and Brave Ads are completely voluntary. You can use one, the other, both, or neither.

Tor Browser

Tor Browser is the epitome of privacy and security online. It is a hardened version of Firefox, designed to run on the Tor Network — modified to provide you extreme privacy and security.

All other Tor Browsers have the same secure configuration, helping prevent browser fingerprinting. The Tor browser takes the customizability feature of Mozilla to the next level, proving arguably the safest way of web browsing.

Tor browser routes your internet traffic over three different secure hops — this helps protect your privacy, making your connection virtually anonymous.

Your download speed will suffer due to multiple hops, but overall browsing won’t be that much slower.

Why Tor Browser is great for Privacy and Security:

  • Backed by Tor Project — a non-profit committed to advance human rights and freedoms.
  • Powered by hardened version of open source Firefox
  • Built-in ads and tracking protection
  • Protection against Fingerprinting
  • Defense against surveillance by multi-layered encryption
  • Preinstalled with HTTPS Everywhere and No Script Security Suite.

Tor Browser comes preinstalled with two of the most recommended plugins — HTTPS Everywhere and No Script Security Suite.

HTTPS Everywhere upgrades your HTTP connections to HTTPS wherever it is possible, and No Script protects you against XSS, cross-zone DNS rebinding / CSRF attacks, and Clickjacking attempts.

You can also run Tor Browser without connecting to the Tor Network — this will get you a pretty secure browser, without the bottlenecks of multiple hops.

Alternative Browser Forks

There are lots of alternative browser forks from both Chromium and Firefox that focus on speed, privacy, security, customizations, ease-of-use, etc — thanks to the open sourceness.

I don’t recommend using alternative browser forks for most people because of these issues:

  • Most of the alternative browser forks aren’t well maintained, as they have small team of developers, which is an issue as they can get fixes for components that are still shared by both codebases.
  • A lot of the browser forks don’t auto-update, and some that support auto-update usually lag behind the proper browser, which is a concern with regard to security updates.
  • Stability is also a common concern in most of the alternative browser forks due to the reasons mentioned above, some forks lack functionality like syncing, extensions support, etc.

You may also find hassles in doing regular stuff like installing extensions, updating them, broken websites, crashes, etc. In the end, it’s all about trust, and I just can’t trust such a browser with all of my financial and personal data.

This does not mean that all browser forks are the bad, there are great alternative forks that are quick to fix bugs and have dedicated development teams.

Alright, with all of that out of the way, here are some wonderful alternative browser forks, if you are interested in trying them out:

ungoogled-chromium Browser

The ungoogled-chromium browser calls itself “A lightweight approach to removing Google web service dependency”.

The ungoogled-chromium browser as the name suggests is basically raw chromium without Google web services and binaries, and addresses lots of privacy issues by:

  1. Removing all remaining background requests to any web services while building and running the browser
  2. Removing all code specific to Google web services
  3. Removing all uses of pre-made binaries from the source code, and replace them with user-provided alternatives when possible.
  4. Disabling features that inhibit control and transparency, and add or modify features that promote them (these changes will almost always require manual activation or enabling).

ungoogled-chromium is Google Chromium, sans dependency on Google web services.

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.

ungoogled-chromium features tweaks to enhance privacy, control, and transparency. However, almost all of these features must be manually activated or enabled.

Objectives of ungoogle-chromium

ungoogled-chromium is arguably the closest the chrome we experience anyone can get without all the Google stuff, however, it also removes some important security features like Safe Browsing, however, this can be rectified by uBlock Origin.

Overall, a pretty cool web browser for people who like the Chrome experience, but don’t want Google snooping on them.

GNU IceCat Browser

GNU IceCat, formerly GNU IceWeasel, is a free and open source rebranded Firefox, distributed by the GNU software project.

GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser.

The most important advantage of using GNU IceCat, rather than Mozilla Firefox, is an ethical one: it is entirely free software free as in free speech.

One of the key features is that it blocks all non-free JavaScript by default:

We will always make IceCat block non-free JavaScript by default. If you want to permit nonfree software to run, you can easily disable LibreJS.

Richard Stallman

Here are some of the baked-in privacy protection features:

  • LibreJS: GNU LibreJS aims to address the JavaScript problem described in Richard Stallman’s article The JavaScript Trap.
  • Https-Everywhere: An add-on that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
  • SpyBlock: Blocks privacy trackers while in normal browsing mode, and all third party requests when in private browsing mode, based on Adblock Plus.
  • AboutIceCat: Adds a custom “about:icecat” homepage with links to free software and privacy features, and checkboxes to enable and disable the ones more prone to break websites.
  • Fingerprinting countermeasures: Avoids giving away hints like installed fonts that can be used for fingerprinting.

In conclusion, a pretty good “Free” version of Firefox browser, for the die-hard fans of Free Software.

PaleMoon Browser

PaleMoon is another browser that started as a Firefox fork with the focus on customizability, and the motto: “Your browser, Your way”, however, it has subsequently diverged.

The PaleMoon browser has replaced the Gecko Engine with the Goanna fork, and continues to run in single-process mode, whereas Firefox became a multiprocess program.

Pale Moon offers you a browsing experience in a browser completely built from its own, independently developed source that has been forked off from Firefox/Mozilla code a number of years ago, with carefully selected features and optimizations to improve the browser’s stability and user experience, while offering full customization and a growing collection of extensions and themes to make the browser truly your own.

PaleMoon Browser

The PaleMoon browser has the same highly customizable user interface of the Firefox version 4–28 era, and still continues to support add-ons that are no longer supported by Firefox, including XUL, XPCOM, and NPAPI plugins such as Silverlight and Flash Player.

Overall, an interesting browser for the classic Firefox fans that want to use a browser that supports Flash.

Iridium Browser

Iridium browser is another Chromium-based browser, developed by German developers, NETitwork GmbH.

The primary focus of Iridium are Speed, Privacy, and Ease of Use:

Iridium Browser is based on the Chromium code base. All modifications enhance the privacy of the user and make sure that the latest and best secure technologies are used. Automatic transmission of partial queries, keywords and metrics to central services is prevented and only occurs with the approval of the user. In addition, all our builds are reproducible and modifications are auditable, setting the project ahead of other secure browser providers.

Iridium Browser

All in all, another Chromium-based browser modified with security, privacy, networking and other enhancements.

Issues with Popular Default Browsers

Alright, let’s see why the default web browsers didn’t make it to the recommended list above.

Google Chrome Browser

Google Chrome is the most popular browser on the planet, it is pretty secure, and is based on the open source Chromium project.

But, Google Chrome is a data hogger — It collects vast amounts of personal data like your browsing history, search queries, etc. to profile you and serve personalized ads.

It has been dubbed as spy software, you should assume that everything you do through Google Chrome is being collected, and saved to your data profile, so that it can be later used for targeted advertising.

Google, is primarily an ad company, it has been introducing lots of fishy changes to reduce functionality of extensions, especially ad blocking extensions.

Another thing to be concerned about is, Google introducing Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), ‘a new way to make your browser do the profiling that third-party trackers used to do themselves: in this case, boiling down your recent browsing activity into a behavioral label, and then sharing it with websites and advertisers’.

Not to mention, it’s closed source.

Microsoft Edge Browser

Microsoft Edge is a new Chromium-based browser by Microsoft, was initially built with Microsoft’s own proprietary browser engine EdgeHTML and their Chakra JavaScript engine.

The Edge browser is pretty secure and has some pretty good built-in protection against trackers with the built-in tracking prevention, it also provides protection against phishing, and malicious websites via the SmartScreen feature.

There are some really cool shopping, personalization, and productivity features like vertical tabs, immersive reader, sleeping tabs, and more.

However, a recent study by Professor Douglas J Leith from Trinity College revealed :

From a privacy perspective, Microsoft Edge and Yandex are much more worrisome than the other browsers studied. Both send identifiers that are linked to the device hardware and so persist across fresh browser installs, and can also be used to link different apps running on the same device. Edge sends the hardware UUID of the device to Microsoft, a strong and enduring identifier that cannot be easily changed or deleted.

Web Browser Privacy: What Do Browsers Say When They Phone Home?

All in all, in terms of privacy, Edge seems a bit better than Chrome, but, both are closed source software.

Apple Safari Browser

Safari is the default browser form Macs, iPhones, and iPads, based mostly on open-source project WebKit.

Apple is considered one of the most privacy-respecting corporations, but it seems like it is equally bad, if not worse, when it comes to your privacy and security.

Safari reportedly stored “deleted” browsing history going back more than a year, and was found collecting data even in private mode.

recent paper published by Google researchers found numerous flaws in Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention.

Beginning in 2018, Apple implemented a new extensions’ framework which is extremely limited in ad blocking functions, only allowing “content blockers”, which are just links bundled as an app which Safari enforces.

This made it impossible for third-party ad-blockers to offer a similar level of user protection found in other browsers, making lots of popular ad and tracking blockers like uBlock Origin discontinued from the Safari browser.

In conclusion, Apple doesn’t seem to be living up to its promise of privacy, not to mention, Safari is closed source.

Browser Add-ons for Privacy and Security

Browser add-ons or extensions are a great way of enhancing the privacy and security of your web browser:

  • uBlock Origin — a wide-spectrum blocker which blocks all kinds of ads, trackers, and malware sites
  • HTTPS Everywhere — upgrades HTTP connections to HTTPS wherever it is possible
  • Decentraleyes — emulates CDNs locally, hence preventing tracking via Content Delivery Networks
  • Cookie AutoDelete — automatically deletes any tracking cookies that are not needed
  • ClearURLs — removes tracking elements from URLs to help protect your privacy when browse through the Internet
  • User-Agent Switcher and Manager — spoofs your user agent aka browser type and operating system
  • Firefox Multi-Account Containers — isolates your work, shopping, or personal browsing activities
  • NoScript Security Suite — lets you choose which scripts to run, but needs proper configuration

I have compiled an updated list of all the add-ons and extensions for privacy, security, and productivity.

Secure and Private Browsers for Phones

All three of the recommended browsers: Firefox, Brave, and Tor are also available on both Android, and iOS.

Here are some other browsers you may be interested in:

Firefox Focus

Firefox Focus is a free and open-source privacy-focused mobile-only browser from Mozilla, with the built-in Tracking Protection that uses a list provided by Disconnect to identify and block trackers.

It uses Gecko engine on Android, and the UIWebView API on iOS devices to bypass the content-blocker restrictions imposed by Apple.

Firefox Focus erases all information about your session after you close it, you can also manually erase it at any time by tapping the Erase button on the search field.

It is available for both Android & iOS.


Bromite is free and open source Chromium-based browser with built-in ad-blocking as well as privacy and security enhancements,

The main goal is to provide a no-clutter browsing experience without privacy-invasive features and with the addition of a fast ad-blocking engine.

Bromite also has a built-in DNS-over-HTTPS, but it is disabled by default, and can be updated by going to Settings > Privacy > Secure DNS. All patches are published under GNU/GPL v3 to enable other open source projects’ usage.

There is an always-incognito mode, with customizable ad block filters, and the ability to remove click-tracking and AMP from search results.

It is only available for Android now.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is another free and open source browser by the same people behind privacy-respecting search engine DuckDuckGo.

It has built-in ad and tracker blocking, forces sites to use an encrypted (HTTPS) connection where available, and provides a Privacy Grade (A-F) based on how protected you are at a glance.

DuckDuckGo has a similar one tap button like Firefox Focus that clears all your tabs and browsing data with one tap.

Another cool feature is “Signal Your Privacy Preference with GPC” which helps you express your legal opt-out rights automatically, which tells websites not to sell or share your personal information under legal frameworks like CCPA, GDPR in various states or countries.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is available for both Android & iOS.

Onion Browser

Onion Browser is a free and open source version of Tor Browser for iOS, developed primarily by Mike Tigas, Benjamin Erhart and Guardian Project.

Just like the Tor Browser, it routes all the traffic from the Tor Network, and basically provides all the same features that a normal Tor Browser provides.

However, iOS has full control over some network traffic, which may result in this traffic (including audio or video embeds) routing via your normal connection and not over Tor.

Secure & Private Browsers Conclusion

I would recommend using a Modified Mozilla Firefox with privacy-enhancing add-ons as the default browser for both desktop and phones, however, if you do require using web apps that don’t work well with Firefox, Brave browser is a good option.

Bromite & Firefox Focus are a great pick for a mobile browser hardened for privacy, Tor Browser and the Onion Browser are amazing if you need extreme privacy and security.

That’s all folks!

I will be updating this page frequently with more privacy and security-enhancing web browsers and information.

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