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Brave new browsers for 2020

New security and privacy concerns,  are forcing phone users to look beyond pre-installed  big -name browsers at  safer, less snoopy options. Here are a few  that we  tried.
By Anand Parthasarathy
January 13 2020: Americans  have an earthy saying: 'There ain't no such thing  as  a free lunch!' And leading US-based  Internet companies, seemingly swear by this mantra. So when we use their email services,  browsers ,  and video sites, for free,   they see no ethical problem in scooping up all the data from such usage.  Some pre- installed mainstream browsers and search engines, track our every  action -- even when  we  choose a so-called  a 'incognito mode'. Soon they have a startlingly personal profile of YOU, which then becomes a commercial  commodity. But-- and I quote a new  browser, DuckDuckGo -- 'The Internet shouldn't feel so creepy, and getting the privacy you deserve online, should be as simple as closing the blinds!"
If you feel vulnerable and used, there are options: third party tools to browse and search that promise to respect your privacy, to not monitor your web history -- and to prevent others from doing so. Here are some half a dozen I have tried and each has some good  privacy features. And all  these tools , are free.
Opera: VPN pioneer
Opera, the  independent browser whose  DNA is Norwegian,  was the first to include  for free a hitherto paid service -- VPN or Virtual Private Network. This is useful  for Internet users who connect to public Wi-Fi in coffee shops, airports and hotels. The VPN will send users’ request through a secure tunnel that encrypts Internet traffic from  mobile devices using strong 256-bit algorithms. This reduces the risk of malicious third parties collecting sensitive information and   hides  users'  physical location,  making  it hard to track their behavior on the Web.  I am told by visitors to China,  that many browsers or email clients, especially those known to be of US origin won't work there. If you are a visitor, a VPN installed on your phone will overcome this problem too.  Some 160 million Indian users are known be  using Opera with VPN.
Firefox: Clears your history
The original Open Source browser  from  the Mozilla Organisation,   took a long time to come out with a mobile version. But when it did , it brought strong protections: the ability to  block 2000-plus trackers from  chasing you;  automatically clearing your browsing history to leave no trace. Says Firefox: "(With us), your personal  data is safe. We will never sell it for profit".
Vivaldi: Make it your own
The  desktop browser created by  Norway-based ex-Opera founder Jon von Tetschner in 2016, made customizability its USP.  It launched a mobile version, just 4 months ago, retaining its unique touch and feel. I find it great for taking notes within the browser, or  mashing information from multiple searches onto a single page. Vivaldi cannily turned to another  player DuckDuckGo for its default  search engine to  leverage its   heightened privacy. You can also switch to your favourite search engine on the fly
DuckDuckGo: You are in control!
While researching  for this article I stumbled on the fact that in addition to its secure search engine, DuckDuckGo also offers its own brand browser. The motto of this US product: 'Take  back control of your personal information'.  As  you a  search or browse, it  flashes  a Privacy Grade rating  which  shows you who they caught trying to track you.
Brave: See ads if you choose
I am a bit  mixed about this very new browser from the US. In its default mode it blocks all trackers and ads  and displays how many it blocked with every page you open, and how many seconds this saved. But it also has a deal with advertisers to display "safe"  and relevant ads,  if the users choose and then rewards them with a monetary incentive.
Popshot: Interactive browser
I include this  for completeness as it is a new product just 6 months old and has already captured 4 lakh users  in India, with its interactive features, although I did not see any specific  privacy features claimed. Jointly developed in France and India, its key feature is something I loved. You can take  a screen shot with a single touch, instead of grappling with two buttons simultaneously as most phones require. It is a very "lite" product and works with just 1GB of RAM.

To conclude, I am not suggesting you straight away  remove the default browser of your phone,  be it Chrome or Safari or UC Browser. But why not install one of these independent browsers and see if they help even a teeny bit,  to pull that curtain on your Internet persona?




    


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