This handout discusses various options that can enhance a user’s privacy in four of the most popular internet browsers: Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
Internet browsers are the first step to accessing the internet while a search engine allows you to search the internet once you have gained access. Both internet browsers and search engines can be used to increase your online privacy and help control your personal information. Popular browser and search engine products such as those mentioned above provide in-browser privacy settings for users.
For survivors of abuse and stalking, using these options may increase their privacy and safety, particularly if they are concerned that an abusive person is physically monitoring their device activity. They can also help survivors have more control over how their personal information is collected and stored when they are online. However, browser privacy options are not going to protect from remote spying or monitoring if an abusive person is either using remote management tools or has downloaded stalkerware/spyware software onto a targeted device. To learn more about stalkerware and other online privacy tips, visit www.techsafety.org.au/resources-women.
A few options that can enhance a user’s privacy when browsing the internet include the following:
Private browsing allows users to surf the internet without the browser collecting search history, the pages you visit or your AutoFill information. This is helpful if a survivor is concerned that someone may be monitoring their internet activity by going through the browser history. However, private browsing will not prevent someone from knowing what you’re doing online if they are looking over your shoulder or are monitoring your device with stalkerware/spyware or remote access tools.
Do Not Track is a setting that sends a signal to websites, analytics companies, ad networks, and plug-in providers, amongst others, to stop tracking your activity. Whether they honour the signal request, however, is another story – it is voluntary to do so and not enforced, therefore we recommend reviewing their privacy policies to check this. This feature is only for third-party tracking, which often tracks users for behavioural advertising purposes; it doesn’t prevent the website that you’re visiting from collecting information about you.
All the browsers discussed in this handout allow users to delete their browser history. Regularly deleting your browsing history can increase privacy, however if someone is monitoring your online activity, deleting your browser history may appear suspicious.
First off, it’s important to know that Microsoft has replaced Explorer with Edge (for Windows 10 users). The last version of IE, Internet Explorer 11 ended support for Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel on 15 July 2022. We recommend updating to a new browser if you are still using IE.
- In a new window, click on the “Settings and more” button at the top right corner then click or tap on “New InPrivate window”.
- A new window will open with an explanation of InPrivate Browsing. You will remain in this mode until you close this browser window.
- To ensure you’re browsing privately in Edge, look for the blue logo located in the top right-hand corner of the window.
Do Not Track:
- In a new window, click on the “Settings and more” button at the top right corner then select “Settings”.
- Select “Privacy and Services” from the left-hand side menu and scroll down to toggle ON the “Tracking prevention” request.
Additional Privacy Options:
Click on the “Settings and more” button at the top right corner then select “Settings”.
- Under “Privacy, search and services” you can change your level of tracking prevention, clear your browser history deleted on exit or you can delete your current history.
- You can choose one of the three options – “Basic”, “Balanced” or “Strict”.
- If you want InPrivate to always default to the harshest anti-tracking, toggle ON “Always use “Strict” tracking prevention when browsing InPrivate”.
- Edge version 88 and higher offers a password monitor to alert you if one of your passwords may have been compromised and a password generator to suggest strong passwords for new accounts. To use both features, go to “Settings > Profiles > Sync”, then click the “Turn on Sync button”.
- To use the password monitor for data breaches, enable the switch for “Show alerts when passwords are found in an online leak”.
- To use the password generator, head to “Settings > Profiles” and turn on the switch for “Offer to save passwords”. The switch for “Suggest strong passwords” should then turn on as well. The next time you create a new account for a website, click in the password field and Edge should suggest a strong and secure password. Click “Refresh” to choose and select a password.
- Apple’s Safari was the first to introduce private browsing.
- Click File and choose “New Private Window.”
- When in Private Browsing mode, your address and search field will have a dark background with white text.
- To stop using Private Browsing, close the Private Browsing window or switch to another Safari window that isn’t using Private Browsing.
Do Not Track:
- Go to Preferences, and select the Privacy Tab.
- Select “Website tracking: Prevent cross-site tracking”.
- Go to History, and select “Clear History…”
- Select from the drop-down menu the period you would like your history data to be deleted.
- Click “Clear History.”
- Go to Preferences, and select the Privacy Tab.
- You can limit or block websites cookies and website data. You can also “Remove All” website data”.
- You can also limit a website’s use of your location to provide services and features. You can choose to be prompted before a website uses your location or deny it without prompting you first.
Lesser-known privacy-oriented alternatives include Brave, Tor, Iridium, DuckDuckGo, Ungoogled Chromium, LibreWolf, GNU Icecat, Waterfox, Bromite (Android) and Pale Moon. Cybersafety and privacy tools offered by these browsers may include the following: private browsing, encrypted connections, blocking of trackers, cryptominers and fingerprinters, controlling of activity logs, password monitoring, email protection, and deletion of cookies.
Think About Your Safety
Victims often want to stop the abusive behaviour by getting rid of the technology or their digital trail. However, for some abusive individuals, this may escalate their controlling and dangerous behaviour as it can make them feel as though their control is threatened. For example, some survivors choose to use their computer privacy and security settings to ensure their browser always opens in private browsing mode and erases their history on exiting. Others might opt to continue using their usual browser for general online activity, while using a private browser for their confidential online activities. When compiling your Safety Plan, think about your safety first by considering what may happen if you hide or remove all evidence of your online activity.