Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Browsers that can help you avoid snooping eyes while surfing the internet

Many websites keep stock of users' activities using cookiesa bunch of text files saved on the computer

New Delhi: Delhi-based researcher, Surabhi Singh, switched to the Tor browser as her default search tool after a friend recommended it. “The browser keeps my location anonymous and prevents websites from tracking my activities, which is why I prefer it over other options," she says.

Singh has a point. Many websites keep stock of users’ activities using cookies—a bunch of text files saved on the computer or smartphone. These files carry information such as site preferences and login details so users won’t have to punch in the details every time they visit the website. While this makes life easy for users, it can also be misused by websites to target users with more precise ads.

Here is where browsers like Tor come handy. Tor has tracker-blocking tools that automatically clear the cookie history after every browsing session so trackers and advertisers can’t follow the users. It also encrypts all communication, keeping users internet protocol (IP) address, activities and location anonymous. It allows users to access websites that may be blocked or inaccessible in a country by regulator or the content provider. Already available for PC, Tor was recently rolled out for Android devices.

Apple’s Safari 12 browser for macOS has tools that can prevent buttons or embedded content used by social media platforms from tracking cross-site browsing activities without user permission. The browser uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify ad trackers, segregate the scripting data and delete it.

Norway-based Vivaldi browser prevents websites from tracking users’ browsing history, bookmarks and other saved data. Vivaldi’s latest version 2.0 uses more secure options such as DuckDuckGo and Quant instead of Google.

Opera is another Norway-based browser that offers built in ad blocker and proxy services to mask IP address. Mozilla’s Firefox Focus also blocks ads and trackers.

Most browsers also come with a feature called incognito mode, which can keep browsing sessions private by not recording the browsing history. It is useful if a user is sharing a PC with other people and doesn’t want them to see what they have been doing, but someone with admin access over the WiFi network (to which the PC is connected) or the ISP can still access the browsing history.

Cost of privacy

TunnelBear: Priced at 650 per month for a full plan with unlimited data for five devices, including PC and smartphone. Its Vigilant mode blocks all communication if the VPN is not active.

NordVPN: Priced at $11.95 per month, it can connect up to six smartphones or PCs at a time. It uses double VPN servers for dual layer encryption, and allows user to order a dedicated IP address.

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