Almost everything we do online requires some form of a browser. Sometimes you can get away with just using an app, but those apps will still use the devices browser engine. What most people don’t realize is that your browser can be used to track you, and even find your exact location, if allowed. In a world where it’s hard to just be another face in the crowd, you have to take a few additional steps to sort of “blend in” with the masses. Also, I recently found out that websites and advertisers can identify you by your browser settings!!! How creepy is that! Your browser settings, screen settings, location, add-ons, font, etc can all be grabbed from your browser when visiting some websites! Whoa. I can’t remember everything I put in the original post this summer, but I’m pretty sure this one will have a few more options for you to follow. This post will probably be long and wordy, so let’s get to the meaty part!
Firefox is arguably the most private browser out there, and the one I use exclusively unless I’m absolutely required to use something else. I have a few add-ons and settings that I have changed to make mine a little more private, but even using Firefox without the extras is way more private than anything else. Mozilla builds anti-tracking mechanisms into the browser natively, so there’s really no extra things you need to change unless you just want to. I just like playing the game to see what internet bogey man is trying to get me. 🙂
Browsers have come a long way since the days of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but the one thing Firefox has over them is no data is sent back to the mother ship. Unlike all the other browsers listed below, with the exception of Brave, Firefox is the only on that doesn’t send your browsing habits back to the company for analytics or to sell your data. Below is quick comparison of browsers taken from Mozilla.
|Security and Privacy|
|Private Browsing mode|
|Blocks third-party tracking cookies by default|
|Blocks cryptomining scripts|
|Blocks social trackers|
Also, in the latest release of Firefox, you now have the option to have a picture-in-picture view while watching a video. I’ve been listening to a YouTube, Vimeo, or other streaming site, and I have put the video in a small picture on the screen, and I’ve been able to continue surfing the web at the same time! Pretty cool feature if you ask me. The only other browser that compares to Firefox is Brave.
Brave is a privacy focused browser rebuilt from the Chromium architecture, and it has been designed to remove all tracking, ads, and they claim your browsing experience is 3X faster, and you save battery life on your device by not having to load all the extra scripts from trackers and advertisers. As you can see from the list above, Brave checks all the same boxes as Firefox, and they do not send any information back to the mother ship. Therefore, no data or identifiers are stored on their servers, and they claim there’s no way to identify you personally. Like Firefox, we have to take their word and trust they are not. The one thing I did notice about Brave is you can determine how much you want to block on a per website basis. This appears to be native and does not require any additional add-ons. To do that in Firefox you will be required to install a browser add-on called uBlock origin. If you want a packaged solution, then Brave may be the best for you.
Another thing Brave has is a form of a rewards system. Basically, Brave has downloaded or has a massive catalog of advertisements they can feed to you. Their website claims these are customizable by you, and depending on how much you use Brave and the number of ads you choose to see, you can get rewarded with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). These appear to be a form of “Brave Bucks” if you will, and you can use those to donate to content creators (like bloggers if they are signed up). You’re supposed to get 70% of the revenue from the ad, but I don’t really know if you can transfer the money to bank account. I’m not part of it, so I just don’t know. I’d be interested to know if you are. Anyway, the claim is that neither Brave nor the advertiser know who you are. I’m always skeptical and I’ll need to research it some more. However, if you don’t use that service, then I don’t see a reason to fear it.
The final one I’m going to discuss is the TOR Browser. Before I get started on the browser, I’m going to talk to you about TOR, more formally known as The Onion Router (TOR). TOR was financed (still is to this day) and initially developed by the United States Navy as a way to have a secure and private internet on top of the current internet. Think of it as a network within a network. The purpose of TOR is to hide your actual location by bouncing your internet connection across multiple points around the world. The goal for the Navy was to essentially hide where the communications were coming from and prevent them from being traced back to a certain location. This would greatly improve security for operative communication since you wouldn’t know where they were located at. Eventually, TOR made it’s way to the private sector and is now run by a non-profit call TOR Project.
The project is focused on the safety, security, and private communication for many people including investigative journalist operating abroad, religious missionaries, dissidents, whistleblowers, and many more who’s lives depend on the privacy of the network. Here’s how it works. You download the TOR software on your computer, and once you open the browser a connection is established to a relay node. Typically, these nodes are operated by people like you and me, and our internet connection is “shared” with fellow TOR users. A user will connect to a TOR, then that relay will connect to another, and another, and another until it reaches an exit relay. An exit relay is a relay that allows traffic to connect to the top level internet we see, like Google, Facebook, etc. Typically, users connect to at least three relays before they are allowed to exit. Let’s say you live in Texas, then your first connection may be in Brazil, the next in Germany, then Japan, and finally you exit from Indonesia to find your desired website. As you can see this would be a nightmare for anyone to track you, including the Feds.
Because it is so hard to track people on TOR, it is often used by criminals or those looking for illegal substances, products, or services. It’s not impossible but it’s very hard. This why the TOR network is often called the “Dark Web”. While not the intention of the project to enable criminal activity, it is a by-product of it. Just like encrypted messaging apps. They are used by good people like you and me, and the criminal enterprises as well.
Alright, now that you have a basic understanding of the TOR Network, let’s look at what you use to browse it with. TOR uses a modified Firefox browser specifically setup to only connect to TOR. It’s designed from the ground up to no identify you or fingerprint you in any way. All the browsers are the same so you look just like another face in the crowd. The only drawback is the TOR IP addresses used have been identified, and many websites block them due to malicious activity. Many hackers use it to hide their tracks. I have had to block one known TOR IP address for my site due to hacking attempts. Oh, plus it’s notorious for spam too.
The TOR browser is a great tool that I use sometimes when my VPN may be blocked or something weird going on. It’s very safe for you to use, and unless you go looking deep into the dark places of it, then you have nothing to worry about. For most of you this is not needed since you can do just fine with Firefox and Brave, but if you want to hide your IP address from everyone, then TOR is a great, free option. The only drawback is your internet speed decreases…significantly, so you can’t stream videos very well with it.
If you have any concerns at all for your privacy as consumer or nudist, then I would advise you abandon the stock browsers found in your Microsoft, Apple, and Google products. While they maybe very secure and good to use, they are by no means private and they are selling your data (with the exception of Apple…for now). I know it may be a bit of a stretch, but my biggest fear is someone stalking me across the internet or finding my home. Just two weeks ago a girlfriend of mine was being stalked and cyberbullied by someone in Turkey. We had to work hard to remove her from the internet as best as we could. Thankfully, she never used her real name, real phone number, or any details in her online accounts. Plus she used a VPN to hide her real IP address. The Turkish guy had managed to grab an IP address, but didn’t appear to be hers. You never know who’s watching…
Originally, I had made a post about how to pay privately online, but I have chosen not to re-post it at this time. I think it goes too far into the crazy paranoid zone for most of you. The greatest benefit is it gives you a throw away debit card number should it get stolen or hacked. If time permits, I may put it in separate section on my website for those of you who want to go down that rabbit hole.
Stay safe, Stay warm, and have a happy, naked New Year!!!