Privacy Settings for Your Favorite Browsers

By | April 7th, 2017|Online Safety|

CSIDAccording to a recent report from Pew Research, 88 percent of adults use the Internet. The way we access it varies – some use a computer, others a smartphone or tablet – but the fact remains that there are security vulnerabilities on any device.

There are steps you can take to keep your devices secure, but did you know there are also privacy and security settings you can enable on the browsers you use every day? Here are some quick and easy ways to minimize your risk of a cyber threat when using popular web browsers.

Google Chrome
Google Chrome in particular sends a large amount of data to Google’s servers. By default, your browser data is automatically synced to your Google account. You can view and change these sync options by clicking Menu -> Settings. Select “Disconnect your Google Account” to surf the web without associating a Google account to your browsing. Alternatively, you can click “Advanced sync settings” to only sync specific types of data. Chrome synchronizes a large amount of data, from installed apps and extensions to bookmarks, browsing history and saved credit cards. The checkbox “Encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase” will encrypt your data across Google’s servers. To do this, you’ll just need to establish a distinct sync passphrase and enter it into Chrome on all your devices.

You may already know about opening up incognito windows on Chrome, but there’s a host of additional privacy settings you can enable. On Chrome’s Settings page, click the “Privacy” section. There are features that help protect you and your device from dangerous sites and use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar. You’ve probably seen this when you start typing in a search and Google offers you several choices to finish the phrase.

Within the Privacy screen, you can click “Content Settings” to control what websites are able to do within Chrome. This primarily revolves around the use of cookies, which are used to save preferences on the web, such as login information. Clicking “Keep local data only until you quit your browser” will automatically clear cookies whenever you close your browser. You can also “Block third-party cookies and site data,” which will only keep cookies from the website you’re visiting. This will prevent cookies that are used for advertising or other purposes from being tracked. For more on Google Chrome security, check out Google’s Privacy Notice.

Mozilla Firefox
Of all the browsers, some argue Firefox is one of the strongest for private browsing. In the “Privacy” tab, you have a pair of Tracking options: “Request that Sites Not Track You” and “Use Tracking Protection in Private Windows.” The former will have Firefox request that every website you visit not track you – though some websites can and will still do so – and the latter will block advertisements and online trackers when you’re in private browsing mode. Under the “History” section, you can fiddle with your settings. Our recommendation is to only keep cookies until “I close Firefox” and to “Clear history when Firefox closes” but you can adjust accordingly.

Similar to Chrome, Firefox allows you to select what you share with Mozilla. You can access this within the Settings menu (Advanced -> Data Choices). Finally, in the Preferences tab you can click “Search” to choose your default search engine.

Safari has similar options to block cookies and enable incognito/private browsing, so we’ll highlight something that’s unique to Apple devices – excluding your browsing history from Spotlight Search. In your Settings app, go to General -> Spotlight Search, and toggle the switch for Safari. This prevents others from seeing what you’ve visited on your device. Additionally, you can turn off “Search Engine Suggestions” and “Safari Suggestions” to avoid Apple collecting your search queries, location, and other usage data. This same screen (accessed via Settings -> Safari) allows you to set your search engine from a choice of Google, Yahoo, Bing, or DuckDuckGo.

Whether you’re using the Internet on your desktop computer, a laptop, or a smart device, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re making the most of the privacy settings on your favorite browser. It will only take a few minutes and could help you stay more secure. Have some good tips of your own? Join the conversation – get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.