Reviews

Best Privacy-Centric Web Browsers For Linux

I wrote an article about the best web browsers for Linux a while ago. Since then, a slew of web browsers have appeared, many of which appear to be based on Chromium or Firefox. However, many of those cool-looking Linux web browsers are not as private as you might think. In this article, I’ll go over the best privacy-focused web browsers for Linux.

I’ve used more than ten web browsers on my Linux in the last few months. Each one focuses on providing secure web browsing, regular feature updates, and customizability, but there are few developers who actually focus on providing not only secure but private web browsing, no matter how far they have to go to do so.

Remember that bad actors aren’t the only ones to be wary of these days; tech behemoths like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and others are constantly monitoring users’ activities across the Internet, even when the user isn’t on their website. Typically, internet users are unaware of how these tech juggernauts track their online activities, so they make no effort to avoid it. Some even do not consider it a matter of privacy, which is a topic for another day.

In this article, I will list 4 privacy focused web browsers that help keep your web surfing private. I’ll update the list with new web browsers as I find more of them, if you have any, please share with me in the comment section.

Open-source Web Browser

In most circumstances, open source software is regarded more privacy-protective. However, developers of certain successful open-source software may seek to leak users’ privacy while well aware that the entire world may see what they are up to. Ubuntu and Chromium are two popular examples. Ubuntu, the most popular open-source operating system, has attempted to share searches entered into the Unity dash with third-party providers (without the user’s consent). However, in response to the community’s outrage, developers requested users’ permission before sharing their data with third-party companies.

In fact, the community has widely criticised Canonical’s snap package management for going against the ethics of open-source system. Please read this guide published by Linux Mint for additional information.

Chromium is the second example of why open-source software may not be privacy-friendly. The most popular open-source web browser is Chromium. It was created by Google. Google is well-known for exchanging user data with third-party partners. When customers install Chromium, they may believe they are using an open-source, privacy-protecting online browser; nonetheless, Chromium makes use of Google web services.

So, in this post, I’ll attempt to compile a list of web browsers that not only deal with privacy concerns caused by web trackers installed by various tech giants in the web browser, but also with privacy difficulties built into the web browser itself.

Best privacy-focused web browsers

Mozilla Firefox

To begin with, what could be better than Firefox? Whether or whether they use it, almost everyone is aware of this Chrome alternative. It was created in 2002 by Mozilla members under the codename “Phoenix,” and it is now developed and maintained by the Mozilla Foundation.

Firefox
Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is a free and open-source web browser that is available for practically all operating systems and devices. To display web pages, it uses Gecko, the in-house rendering engine. Firefox is a privacy-focused web browser, and in 2013, Mozilla was named the most trusted Internet company for privacy.

Mozilla is a complete package that includes services such as Firefox sync, extensions store, built-in security system that prevents all malicious scripts from loading and recording user activities. Firefox also blocks cross-site cookies. Other web browsers (including some featured in this post) require the installation of plugins or extensions to block ads/harmful scripts/dangerous websites, etc., but Firefox does it by default. It features Enhanced Tracking Protection, which prevents extraneous scripts from loading, helping webpages load faster.

Mozilla Firefox has received tiny but major updates over the years, making it the most privacy-oriented web browser in the world.

Install Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is available for all major devices and operating systems. Head over to the official download page for os-specific binaries.

Brave Web Browser

With 3.2 billion users using it as their primary web browser, Google Chrome is the most popular web browser. People use it because of its simplicity, speed, and security, but they may be unaware that Google’s privacy policies are not meant to protect users’ privacy. Some people are aware of the fact but they keep using Chrome since they simply adore the web browser.

Brave browser
Brave browser

Brave Web Browser resolves the issues by allowing users to use the same web browser, Chromium (the Chrome base with Google services), without the Google code that violates users’ privacy. Brave Browser is a web browser designed to be more secure and private. None of the information is transferred to Google.

All functionalities that send data to Google have been deleted by developers. It employs Google Safe Browsing, but all queries are proxied through Brave servers, erasing users’ IP addresses from the data. To safeguard users’ privacy, features such as Google URL tracker, Background sync, Hyperlink ping attribute, Battery API, WebBluetooth API, Google Cloud messaging, and others have been disabled. Please visit the Github page for a complete list of privacy-invading features removed from the Brave browser.

Brave users, unlike Ungoogled-chromium (listed later in this list), can easily install extensions or themes from the Chrome web store.

On top of that, Brave Browser provides an excellent feature, open sites with Tor. Tor is an onion network, allows users to surf the internet anonymously. There is no need to use VPN or proxy when using Tor.

Install Brave Browser

Brave Browser is available for almost all operating systems and devices. For Android, visit Google play store, on iOS install it from App store, and on any other operating system, visit Brave download page.

Ungoogled-chromium

The second web browser in my list is Ungoogled-chromium. Ungoogled-chromium is, as the name implies, a Chromium web browser that eliminates Google’s dependencies. The developers of ungoogled-chromium have stated the web browser’s goals in three simple terms, which are –

  1. ungoogled-chromium is Google Chromium, sans dependency on Google web services.
  2. ungoogled-chromium retains the default Chromium experience as closely as possible.
  3. ungoogled-chromium features tweaks to enhance privacy, control, and transparency.

While running, the Chromium web browser sends queries to web services in the background. While building and running the browser, ungoogled-chromium removes any background requests to any web services.

Ungoogled chromium
Ungoogled chromium

Developers also deleted code related to Google web services. Chromium relies on source-code binaries that have been replaced with user-provided equivalents when possible.

Google created Chromium to be simple and feature-rich while compromising with consumers’ privacy. ungoogled-chromium disables features that obstruct user control and transparency and replaces them with those that support user transparency.

Although ungoogled-chromium resolves any issues with Google privacy policy in the Chromium web browser, it does not disable scripts loaded by individual websites by default. Other web browsers on this list, for example, will automatically block and safeguard users from privacy-threatening scripts; ungoogled-chromium, on the other hand, does not have that protection by default. However, it is simple to resolve by using a plugin such as privacy badger. More information on installing extensions in ungoogled-chromium may be found here.

Install ungoogled-chromium

It is simple to install the web browser on the majority of major Linux distributions. If you use Windows or Mac, you can also install ungoogled-chromium on those platforms. Go to the Download page and follow the instructions for your operating system. If your Linux distribution or version (for example, Ubuntu 22.04) is not currently supported, you can install ungoogled-chromium Flatpak from the flathub store.

Tor Browser

Tor Browser is one of the best web browsers for Internet privacy and security because it reminds you how deep an iceberg is beneath the sea. 😛 Tor Browser is built on Firefox, therefore unlike Chromium, it does not need privacy-violating code removal. Tor Browser also makes use of the onion network, which is a network for black hat hackers, thieves, and the like. Another Joke! 😛

The internet is riddled with Tor Browser misconceptions. It is commonly referred to as a browser where drug transactions take place, but when you think about it, Telegram and even Whatsapp may be used by criminals, so we penalise the criminal rather than the technology or the corporation that invented it.

Tor browser
Tor browser

When using the Tor browser, users’ requests do not go directly to the destination server, but rather bounce across three distinct nodes before reaching the destination server. Each node encrypts the data during transmission, making it more safe and private, and the last node decrypts the data and sends it to the server. The destination server or application remain unaware of the true user, only the last node.

Although it is not encouraged, you can install Tor browser extensions from the Firefox plugin store. Tor Browser already has powerful protection that prevents malicious scripts from loading. It is not recommended to install extensions since installed extensions have enough permissions and are capable of transferring user information to their developers. It is not possible to validate each extension to ensure that it does not send private data to its developers. So it is up to the user to avoid installing any addons and, if necessary, ensure that they do not breach their privacy.

Install Tor Browser

Tor browser is compatible with nearly all operating systems and devices. If you have a smartphone, go to the app store and install the Tor browser. If you’re using a desktop or laptop, please go to the download page to get the installer.

For Linux users, it’s already available in most distributions’ repositories. Please use the package manager to pull it from the repo.

Conclusion

So there you have it: the four best privacy-focused web browsers for Linux. I’m keeping this brief since I don’t want to list any applications that can’t be entirely trusted. Please let me know in the comments section below if you believe I should include a web browser in the list.



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