How to Enhance Your Browsing Privacy

Two curtains locked together by a lock.

Every time you surf the Internet, you leave traces that are recorded, analyzed and sometimes even sold to data brokers. The browser you are using to access the Internet collects and keeps a lot of information about you and your online activity. For starters, most browsers store cookies which track your browsing habits to save you time and ensure that the ads you see are relevant to you. Browsers also keep detailed lists of websites you visit, your search records, downloads, and other information.

If you do not like the idea of companies collecting and using this information about you, follow these tips to enhance your privacy by limiting digital traces you leave while browsing the Internet.

1. Use Firefox in Strict mode

While all popular browsers have their pros and cons, not all of them do an equally good job at giving users the tools to control their browsing privacy. For users who care about their privacy, we recommend using Firefox by Mozilla with Enhanced Tracking Protection set to Strict. In this mode, Firefox blocks the creation of certain tracking cookies and other methods of identifying you. In addition to strict mode, you should consider setting your history setting to “Never remember”, which will automatically erase your browser history and delete all cookies, trackers, and cryptominers, making it virtually impossible for any website to track your browsing. Note that if you set your history to “Never remember,” you will have to re-login to every website every time you open the web browser.

When you install Firefox, its Enhanced Tracking Protection is set to Standard by default. Follow these steps to change this setting to Strict:

Firefox on a desktop device

  1. Click the shield icon to the left of the address bar on any website and select Protection Settings. This will open the Firefox Settings Privacy & Security panel.
  2. Under Enhanced Tracking Protection, select Strict.
  3. OPTIONAL: Under History, select Never remember history.

Firefox on an Android device

  1. Tap the menu button (three vertical dots to the right of the address bar);
  2. Tap Settings in the menu panel;
  3. Under Privacy and Security, tap Enhanced Tracking Protection.
  4. Under Enhanced Tracking Protection, select Strict.
  5. OPTIONAL: Just below this, you can select Delete browsing data on quit. This will open a new menu. When you turn the radio button on, by default it will clear your history, cookies and all other data on exit. If you would like to retain your history, cookies, or any other piece of data, you can deselect it here.

Firefox on an iOS device

  1. Tap the menu button (three horizontal bars at the bottom right on an iPhone or top right on an iPad);
  2. Tap Settings in the menu panel;
  3. Scroll down and, under PRIVACY, tap Tracking Protection;
  4. Check that Enhanced Tracking Protection is enabled and, under PROTECTION LEVEL, select Strict.
  5. NOTE: Firefox on iOS doesn’t have the “Delete browsing data on quit” option at last check. If you would like to prevent cookies and history from being stored on your mobile phone, you should consider Firefox Focus for iOS instead.

2. Install an ad blocker

In addition to using Firefox with Enhanced Tracking Protection set to Strict, we recommend installing either Privacy Badger or uBlockOrigin, reliable browser add-ons that block malicious ads, trackers and malware sites. These add-ons are also available for other browsers.

Follow these steps to install Privacy Badger or uBlockOrigin on your browser:

Mozilla Firefox

  1. Visit the Mozilla Firefox Add-ons page, find Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin, and click Add to Firefox.
  2. When prompted, click Add to confirm.

Google Chrome

  1. Visit the Chrome Web Store, find Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin, and click Add to Chrome.
  2. When prompted, click Add to confirm.

Microsoft Edge

  1. Visit the Microsoft Edge Add-ons Store, find Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin, and click Get.
  2. When prompted, click Add extension to confirm.

3. Use incognito mode on shared computers

One way to prevent a browser from storing your cookies, browsing history, search records, and downloads is to use it in an incognito or private mode. Available on all popular browsers, this feature prevents others who use the same computer from being able to see the list of websites you visited and files you downloaded. Always use incognito mode on public or shared computers to enhance your privacy. Follow this guide to start browsing incognito in whichever browser you are using.