- Oct 9, 2016
This is a very long article so read below for moreThis article isn't specifically about privacy issues only, it's about promises that are being broken, which might be about privacy. It is also about the lack of user freedom, as in the choice to enable or disable features, such as automatic updates, or forced usage of third party services, or software that the user generally is unaware of or don't have a say about.
Privacy as a subject regarding the usage of services on the Internet is a very difficult subject to deal with. Not only can it be difficult to actually define privacy, but it also requires a balance between freedom of choice by the users, security and usability. Naturally you need to be able to use the browser on the Internet and as such you will always leave some kind of trail behind, and this article is not about how you can hide your tracks. What I am addressing in this article are browsers that are either promoted as "privacy-respecting" by the developers, or in general are considered to be so (mostly due to misunderstanding or misinformation), while it is very clear they are not.
I will try to keep this article updated with relevant information as much as possible. I know several other browsers exist, but if they are not mentioned on this list I have either not had a change to investigate them, they are closed source and completely irrelevant (such as Microsoft Edge or Opera), or they are not actively maintained, or they cannot perhaps be trusted for some reason or another.
Please note that I have not considered each browsers resistance to fingerprinting in this article as that is something you can tweak yourself in various ways. With the exception of Librewolf and the Tor Browser, none of the other browsers does anything relevant to protect you against fingerprinting.
I will also not be looking at browsers that only work on Microsoft Windows or macOS, even if they are Open Source. Both Microsoft Windows and macOS are highly controversial and completely untrustworthy operating systems.
Also please note that just because the developers of a browser are promising that their browser is privacy-respecting doesn't mean that you can trust the information. As you will see with the examples of some of the browsers below even developers some times compromise user privacy perhaps without even thinking about it.
I also want to make a strong advice to people recommending browsers to other people without investigation or knowledge. The privacy related channel on Reddit is filled with wrong recommendations regarding privacy-respecting browsers and many people are merely guessing or blindly trusting the information the browser producers are publishing. Neither Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Chromium, Brave, Waterfox, or several of the other recommended browsers truly respect privacy. They all do some form of telemetry and/or privacy-compromising actions without the user consenting to it or even knowing about it.
Also, privacy doesn't mean that you simply pull out telemetry from Firefox, rebrand it, and then ship it. Privacy is more than that. Unless the browser is automatically checking for an updated version, and the website isn't logging that request, it cannot be considered truly private if the browser starts bouncing around on the Internet visiting all kinds of places without the user has done anything more than open the browser up! Every time the browser makes a DNS request, that DNS request is in most cases logged unless the user actively does something to mitigate that - such as using a trusted VPN or non-logging DNS service etc. Furthermore, the Mozilla add-on CDN is logging user activity, as is Amazon Cloudfront, so if the browser visits these places without the user explicitly pushes a "check for updates" option, the browser is compromising user privacy. The point I'm trying to make is that the user needs to have the choice and that nothing happens until the user actively do something.
Privacy compromising browsers
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome and Chromium
- GNOME Web (Epiphany) and Eolie
- Other problematic browsers
- Tweaking Firefox - the best solution
- Controlling Firefox's DNS over HTTPS
- Blocking DoH via a firewall
- GNU IceCat
- Tor Browser
- Other okay browsers
- uBlock Origin