Yes, like it or not, privacy and security are more than memes these days. The trends are clear. Online users are rising up in rebellion because the interwebs does not provide enough of either trend; privacy or security.
The latest to catch my eye is from Mozilla and Firefox; a very fast and capable browser that runs rings around Google Chrome and Apple Safari on speed, security, and privacy. What’s new?
OK. What’s fingerprinting?
A device fingerprint, machine fingerprint, or browser fingerprint is information collected about a remote computing device for the purpose of identification. Fingerprints can be used to fully or partially identify individual users or devices even when persistent cookies (and also zombie cookies) can’t be read or stored in the browser, the client IP address is hidden, and even if one switches to another browser on the same device
What does fingerprinting do?
This may allow a remote application to detect and prevent online identity theft and credit card fraud, but also to compile long-term records of individuals’ browsing histories even when they’re attempting to avoid tracking
In other words, you are being tracked even when you think you have your tracks covered.
Advertising networks often sniff certain browser features, such as the window size to create user profiles and track users as they resize their browser and move across new URLs and browser tabs.
Mozilla plans to use the Tor Browser anti-fingerprinting technique in future versions of Firefox.
Where does Apple stand when it comes to implementing additional privacy techniques to prevent browsers from being tracked by advertisers?
Do Not Track is one, but Does Not Work. Apple can do more.
VPN provider ExpressVPN ranked the most popular browsers for privacy and security. The worst, as expected, was Microsoft Internet Explorer. The rest:
- Microsoft Edge (soon to be a part of Google’s Chromium project)
- Opera (owned by a company in China)
- Google Chrome (owned by earth’s largest privacy breach company)
- Apple Safari (Wait! What? Barely better than Chrome?)
- Chromium (the open source project; Chrome is based on)
- Brave (I love this free browser; wonderfully elegant)
- Mozilla Firefox (I told you)
- Tor Browser (with a VPN, about as secure as you can get)
Tor Browser can be something of a pain to use for most of us, and it isn’t exactly a speed demon by comparison to Firefox, but it is loaded with plenty of anti-tracking components.
Why does Safari rank so poorly? Not necessarily because Safari isn’t a good browser, but more that other browsers are better.
Safari’s latest update has really polished its privacy features, from camouflaging digital fingerprinting to a new intelligent tracking protection service. The browser prevents third-party sites from leaving data in your cache by default, helping you stay anonymous online. In addition, Safari offers a range of useful extensions to safeguard your privacy.
What I want from Safari is what I want from Apple.
First, a simple, elegant no tracker toggle switch. Secure, no-follow, no-tracker, no advertising option. Turn it off, and all is as normal as Safari is on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Turn the toggle switch on, and Safari goes into no-tracker mode. It would be better to have such a no-tracker mode for macOS and iOS, but let’s start with one that can help minimize the damage caused by websites we visit.
Second, I want to see Apple put its money where Tim Cook’s mouth is regarding privacy. Apple takes billions of dollars a year from Google to keep the advertising giant’s spot as Safari’s default search engine, yet Google is the worst online privacy offender.
When Apple cuts that apron string then I’ll know Tim Cook is serious about privacy.