This week it’s time to focus a bit on digital privacy – and nothing does it better than talking about web browsers and search engines, since a large portion of our online activities depends on those.
At this point it makes sense to address one of the commonly encountered myths of private browsing – the Incognito / Private Browsing mode.
They are not private. Not one bit.
The website you browse or the service you access in either mode still reads your IP address, still takes your browser fingerprint, still recognises your user agent.
Your protection against online threats, such as drive-by downloads of malware from a website, is still the same as in normal browsing mode.
Finally, your ISP can still see what you are doing online.
Search engines and browsers listed below might not necessarily address all of these concerns – for example, the ISP snooping issue needs to be addressed by using a VPN (I wrote about the reasons why over a year ago).
Whether it’s privacy or OSINT that you want to focus on when picking some of these less known options, you should have enough to choose from below.
Listed alphabetically, so in no particular order in terms of how good or useful they are:
- Brave Search – https://search.brave.com/ – a beta version of a privacy friendly search engine linked to the popular Brave browser.
- DuckDuckGo – https://duckduckgo.com/ – probably the best known, privacy oriented search engine.
- eTools CH – https://www.etools.ch/ – a privacy oriented search engine aggregator, currently with 17 search engines feeding into it (many of which are on this list).
- Gibiru – https://gibiru.com/ – no account necessary, no cookies, no search logs, no browsing history.
- Gigablast – https://www.gigablast.com/ – private search engine for news, images, directories, etc.
- Intelligence X – https://intelx.io/ – a multipurpose, yet specialised search engine for anything from web infrastructure to data leaks. Not suitable for general Google-like usage though.
- Lukol – https://www.lukol.com/ – anonymous browsing through Google custom search; while it uses Google search as the underlying driver, it does not require an account or registration.
- MetaGer – https://metager.org/ – a search engine run by a non-profit NGO. Protects against censorship by combining the results of multiple search engines.
- Mojeek – https://www.mojeek.com/ – independent search engine for “escaping the big tech”.
- Oscobo – https://www.oscobo.com/ – not collecting any user details; also has a dedicated browser.
- Privado – https://www.privado.com/ – privacy focused search engine with a dedicated blog.
- Private SH – https://private.sh/ – achieves privacy through encrypted search queries and using proxies.
- Quant – https://www.qwant.com/ – EU based search engine, does not track user activities, ads might show up but will be randomised.
- Searchencrypt – https://www.searchencrypt.com/ – deletes your browsing history after 15 minutes.
- SearX – https://searx.space/ – open source search engine that offers a whole list of user made, local search engines with information about what is hosted where and how it’s operated.
- Startpage – https://www.startpage.com/ – search engine that blocks trackers, ad targeting, and removes user IP addresses from their servers. Runs a regularly updated privacy blog.
- Swisscows – https://swisscows.com/ – privacy friendly, with a particular emphasis on being family friendly due to built-in filters for blocking adult content.
When talking about browsers, I’m purposefully not listing the obvious ones here like Safari, Firefox or Chrome (the latter two can be great for OSINT, given a multitude of useful extensions), since the goal is to focus on some less known options.
No browsers are created equal – but many of the ones listed below can be used for specific things:
- Brave – https://brave.com/ – a Chromium based browser with very decent privacy features; it comes with an additional functionality of built-in, browser native cryptocurrency wallet.
- Epic Privacy Browser – https://www.epicbrowser.com/ – a browser with an impressive list of privacy protections and safeguards (read about the in detail here).
- Freenet – https://freenetproject.org/pages/download.html – a niche suite of software for browsing a decentralised network of websites and peer to peer resources, so not exactly a mainstream browser…
- Ghost Browser – https://ghostbrowser.com/ – a browser offering multiple user identities for various browsing sessions, as well as workspaces and proxies. Both free and paid options available.
- Opera – https://www.opera.com/ – a privacy friendly browser with a built-in chat option and a free, built-in VPN service.
- Oscobo – https://www.oscobo.com/ctnt.php?c=download – a native browser for the Oscobo search engine mentioned above.
- Osirt Browser – https://osirtbrowser.com/ – a strictly OSINT focused browser, for documenting your work. It’s due a major upgrade in 2022, definitely should be even more interesting.
- Tor – https://www.torproject.org/download/ – no introductions necessary here to anybody interested in digital privacy. A real pioneer in private browsing.
- Vivaldi – https://vivaldi.com/ – another privacy focused browser with innovative features, such as split screen tabs or built-in mail client.
- Waterfox – https://www.waterfox.net/ – no telemetry, no tracking – and it claims to support various Chrome and Firefox extensions.
- Yacy – https://yacy.net/demonstration_tutorial_screenshot/ – not strictly a browser per se, but a locally run, user configurable search engine. The multitude of available options gives it a browser-like feel.
Special mention: Yes, I said I was not going to talk about Firefox – and I’m not, not exactly.
I do however recommend Firefox Focus – a mobile only version of Firefox that offers minimalistic, tracking-free, rapid experience when browsing.
This mobile app browser stores no online history and closing the app means closing down whatever you were looking at.
Additional, Firefox Focus has no tabs – only one search bar and one view at the time.
Got any suggestions or additions to this list? Drop them in the comments below.