No matter which page you are on in Apple and Google̵7;s war for the web, the web trackers for the advertising industry remain a pervasive annoyance online. Companies compile a wealth of data about you as you navigate the Internet. Their goal? To build a richly detailed user profile on you so that you can be the target of strangely accurate and more clickable ads.
But with problems like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, privacy protection has moved much higher up Silicon Valley’s priority list. But you can move it higher still with some easy ways to outsmart tracking.
First is your choice of the browser itself. Apple has made privacy a top priority, and that is reflected in its Safari priorities. But it is a point of competition for all browsers. It’s a core target for launching Brave, and even Chrome has started building a “privacy sandbox” despite Google’s reliance on advertising revenue.
In all browsers listed here, you can give yourself a privacy boost by changing the default search engine. For example, try DuckDuckGo. While the search results may not be as useful or deep as Google’s, DuckDuckGo is a long-standing favorite among the content because it refuses to track user searches.
Other universal options that increase privacy include disabling browser location tracking and search engine autofill features, disabling password autofill and deleting your browsing history on a regular basis. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, you can consider trying one of the virtual private networks that CNET has reviewed that works with all browsers.
In the meantime, though, there are some simple settings that you can change in your current browser to keep a good portion of ad trackers off track.
Unfortunately, the world’s most popular browser is also widely thought to be one of the least private when used straight out of the box. On the plus side, however, Krom’s flexible and open source support has made it possible for independent developers to release a number of privacy-focused add-ons to shake off trackers.
Click in the Chrome Web Store Extensions to the left and enter the name of the extension you are looking for in the search field. When you find the right extension in the search results, click on Add to Chrome. A dialog box appears explaining what permissions the extension has for your browser. Click Add extensions to take the extension to your browser.
If you change your mind, you can manage or remove your extensions by opening Chrome and clicking the three dots More menu on the right. Then select More tools and then Extensions. From here you can also see more about the extension by clicking on details.
Here are four add-ons to look at when you get started: Cookie Autodelete, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.
If you’re on Android, sorry: add-ons do not work. So you have to switch browsers completely to something like the DuckDuckGos app.
In the same three-point menu in Chrome, you can also block third-party cookies by selecting settingsand then scroll down to Privacy and security section and click Cookies and other website information. From here you choose Block third-party cookies.
Read more: Google Chrome privacy is not the best. These browser extensions help
By default, Safari activates its proprietary intelligent anti-tracking tool to keep you one step ahead of privacy damage. Nevertheless, the tool has not always worked smoothly since its debut in 2017. Google researchers discovered how intelligent tracking prevention could in itself be used to track users, even if Apple cracked the problem.
Announced in June and arriving later in 2020 with the new MacOS Big Sur, Safari 14 will be able to tell you which ad trackers are running on the site you are visiting and give you a 30-day report on the known tracks it has identified as you browse. It will also tell you which websites these trackers came from.
To check that blocking is on, open Safari and click settingsthen Integrity. The box next to it Prevent tracking across multiple sites should be checked. Once you are there, you can also delete your cookies manually. Click Manage website information to see which websites have left their trackers and cookies hanging in your browser. Click Remove next to any of the individual tracks that you are ready to get rid of, or just crack the entire list by clicking Remove all at the bottom of the screen.
Cookies can be helpful, not only invasive, but to strengthen privacy, you can block them completely – both first-party cookies from the website publisher and third-party cookies from others as advertisers. To do so, check the box next to it Block all cookies. Apple will start blocking most third-party cookies by default with MacOS Big Sur and iOS 14.
If you’re still looking for another layer of privacy, you can also install useful extensions from the App Store such as AdBlock Plus for or Ghostery Lite for Safari.
Read more: Safari joins browsers that tell who is trying to track you
Microsoft’s Edge browser includes some simplified privacy and tracking blocking options on its Tracker prevention screen. Select the Edge menu icon in Edge in the upper right corner and select settings. Select from the menu shown on the left Privacy and services.
You get three settings to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict. By default, Edge uses the Balanced setting, which blocks trackers from sites you have not visited while still being careful enough to save most sites from some of the load issues that may come with stricter security. In the same way, Edge’s strict approach can affect the behavior of certain websites, but will block the largest number of trackers. Even the default setting will still block trackers used for crypto mining and fingerprints.
Read more: Microsoft Edge privacy settings to change immediately
Although Firefox does not provide the most control over trackers and privacy, its privacy options under the hood should not be underestimated. And its privacy settings are more protective than Chrome or Microsoft Edge.
Choose from within the Firefox main menu – or from within the three-lined menu to the right of the toolbar settings. When the Settings window opens, click Privacy and security. From here, you can choose from three options: Standard, Strict, and Custom. Standard, the default setting for Firefox, blocks trackers in private windows, third-party tracking cookies and cryptocurrencies. The String the setting may break some websites, but it blocks everything blocked in default mode, plus fingerprints and trackers in all windows. Custom is worth exploring for those who want to fine-tune how trackers are blocked.
To apply your new tracking settings after selecting your privacy level, click Reload all tabs button displayed.
Read more: With Firefox, stop leaking your data over the internet
When it comes to anti-tracking tools, Safari’s latest privacy updates are still not most of those found in the Brave browser. By default, Brave blocks all ads, trackers, third-party cookies and third-party fingerprints while still achieving burning speeds. Brave also offers a built-in private privacy mode for Tor, a powerful tracking option, and has added a built-in VPN for iOS users.
Inside Brave’s main menu, select settings to expose settings panel on the left. Select Shields to see a list of privacy options on the right side of the screen. By choosing Advanced View, you can choose which types of trackers to block. By scrolling down, you can also block login buttons and embedded content from Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. For even more protection and privacy tweaks, explore Additional settings to the left and select Privacy and security.
Read more: If you are worried about your privacy online, this is the browser you should use