Online security is all about how you browse the web. While more users are on mobile devices, desktop browsers have significantly updated themselves to meet current security demands. The three biggest browsers, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, have all added security features, such as “URL filtering” and “download protection,” that are customizable by the user. According to LifeHacker, all browsers can now technically be considered “secure” browsers, but for your own personal protection against identity theft, which features hold up better than others?
Google Chrome currently dominates as the most widely used browser in the world. Because it’s easily customized with settings attached to a certain email address, it’s a streamlined interface favored by most. However, Chrome hasn’t been without its privacy pitfalls. Its popular “add-ons” that users can download at will to configure their experience have had issues with adware and data exploitation. These security concerns have little to do with the browser itself, though, and stem from third parties that Google has worked to police.
When it comes to security, Google is all about transparency. The company has often been at the forefront of conversations about transparency in government data requests, going as far as publishing government transparency reports. In fact, it created a privacy breakdown specifically for Chrome to explain to users exactly what information the company gets and what is done with it. However, this information depends on which features you’ve enabled.
This is because the open-source browser also emphasizes personal experience, allowing users to enable or disable settings as they see fit. This means features like URL prediction, page pre-rendering, spelling correction, usage statistics and crash reports can be switched on and off in Chrome’s settings. Users can choose to enable the “Do Not Track” feature that asks advertisers and data miners not to track your browsing behavior.
There is still certain data that Google will collect from you, which is all detailed in its security breakdown. While it seems like a lot of information, Google assures that none of it is personally identifying and privacy and security remain top priorities for the web browser. The question that remains, though, is how long that information is stored and whether it could build a personal profile when put together.
As an alternative to Chrome, Firefox provides similar services: flexibility, user control and add-ons for a customized experience. Before Chrome, Firefox was often regarded as one of the leading browsers in privacy. Because it’s an open-source browser managed by the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit, it also emphasizes transparency, and its code is available to anyone who wants it.
As with Chrome, users can enable private browsing and the “Do Not Track” feature. In addition to being able to clear their entire history, Firefox users have the option of switching on “Never Remember History” as well as determining what information the browser is allowed to collect about usage. Mozilla also breaks down what information is collected about you based on your settings.
Firefox got some heat in 2014 for introducing ads on its homepage that were based on Mozilla sponsorships or user locations. According to LifeHacker, fans of the browser felt the move signified that Firefox had “sold its soul.” The Chair of the foundation defended the move, assuring users that Firefox still prioritizes privacy.
Regardless of what browser you use, all internet users need to think proactively about personal security, and luckily there are plenty of tools or services you might invest in to protect your identity. A good identity theft protection service should monitor your credit file, Social Security Number and public record, and alert you to certain activity that could indicate fraud. While internet browsers continue to update their security provisions, it’s also important to look for a service that provides software tools like keystroke encryption or anti-virus as well as education on digital privacy and how you can lower your risk.
Going online is almost inevitable, which is why taking measures to protect yourself while you browse is so important.