Brave wins browser privacy survey

The identifiers of two other web browsers are linked to the hardware so they persist through new installs.

Brave is the best browser for privacy enthusiasts, according to a recently published study. Google Chrome (Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Yandex Browser and Microsoft Edge were also scrutinized.

Professor Douglas J. Leith from Trinity College Dublin evaluated privacy concerns associated with backend information exchange between browsers, their makers and respective servers. This occurs while web surfing. A number of tests were conducted to determine if web browsers could track the IP addresses of users over time, as well as whether or not they would leak the URLs visited.

For fairness, the researcher went through all the shared data, including the startup and after fresh installs, as well as after closing and opening again. She also tried pasting and typing URLs in the address bar. Based on the results of the tests, three privacy categories were created for the browsers.

Brave emerged as the privatest of the bunch, placing it in its best position when being tested with its default settings. Prof. Leith could not find any sort of identifiers for IP address tracking, and there were no indications of browsers sending data about pages visited to backend systems.

Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Safari – together they account for more 85% of the browser share — all made it to the second category. The data has been stored to tag data using identifiers that are persistent through restarts and disappear when you install new browsers. They share information on the pages visited with their respective makers. This happens when the browser makes use of the autocomplete option, which transmits real-time data to backend web servers. If you want to go deeper into settings, you will find that the option is turned on by default.

Firefox’s telemetry transmission uses unique identifiers. It is set up defaulty but can be manually turned off. You can use this identifier to track your progress. Although this can be disabled it isn’t usually used by the average user.

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Concerning Safari, Prof. Leith made a scathing critique of Apple’s use of data. Safari defaults on a bad choice for a start page, which leaks user information to third parties (Facebook. Twitter. etc. not well-known sites that are privacy friendly). And allows these websites to create cookies without users consent.

Safari has 32 requests to Google and Apple for their autocomplete behavior. This includes identifiers that are persistent across browser restarts. These can be used in order to piece together your browsing past.

It was concluded that privacy can be achieved with all browsers, but that it is possible to make them more private using a combination of settings and default settings.

Yandex and Microsoft Edge are the next in line. The two were grouped together under the third category and both sent identifiers that are tied to the device’s hardware. Edge contacts Microsoft with the UUID from Edge, which is difficult to change even though it can be changed. Yandex transmits its hash to Yandex with the hardware serial numbers and MAC addresses. These unique identifiers will remain in place, regardless of whether you do another install.

Technology giants are trying their best to reduce users’ anxiety about privacy and how it is shared. Google announced recently that Chrome will stop supporting third-party Cookies in Chrome. Firefox, however, has switched DNS over HTTPS to users within the US.