Wednesday, February 21, 2024
HomeSECURITYAvoid The Hack: 3 Best Privacy Browser Picks for Android

Avoid The Hack: 3 Best Privacy Browser Picks for Android


This post was originally published on 14 APR 2021; it has since been updated and revised.

Most Android phones come from the factory with Google Chrome installed. As you’re more than likely aware, Google Chrome is highly detrimental to your online privacy. Of the Android phones that don’t, they may come with another manufacturer browser that proves non-privacy friendly and/or has questionable security.

This leads Android users to looking for an alternative browser – ideally one that respects the privacy of its users. Fortunately, most Android phones make this easy; Google Chrome can be uninstalled and replaced it with a privacy-respecting alternative such as one recommended here.

Please be aware that _not_ all browsers listed here are **readily found in the Google Play Store**. Most listed here are indeed free but many of the truly privacy-respecting browsers for Android are found off the Google Playstore; instead you can find them on F-droid.

The browsers listed here are not put in any particular order. Each browser has its own pros, cons, and special use cases. Users will want to evaluate their specific needs and wants in a browser before selecting one – but there’s no reason not to download and try all browsers listed here!

brave logo

  • Native adblocker
  • Strong site isolation
  • Proxied Google Services (Brave services)
  • Good out-the-box privacy

The Brave browser is a fork of Chromium and is open-source. It is maintained by the Brave company, which of itself has been involved with a handful of privacy-related scandals. Brave has good privacy straight out-the-box, requiring no configuration to improve most users’ privacy.

The Brave browser has a native adblocker (“shields”) enabled by default. While it does “use” Google services, Brave proxies all/any requests to Google by default – together with services rendered by Brave itself, these are the “Brave Services.”

Brave has introduced privacy features, such as a fingerprint randomizer, providing extra fingerprinting resistance. In May 2023, the browser also introduced “Forgetful Browsing,” which provides resistance to first-party site reidentification.

Brave engages in telemetry, though it can be disabled.

ice raven browser logo

  • Highly customizable
  • Limited Telemetry

Ice Raven is an open-source Firefox fork maintained by a broad community of differing developers. The core developers are the Ice Raven Project.

Ice Raven’s main mission is to provide the user with enhanced customization options and information about how the web browser interacts with visited pages; its primary goal is to be transparent with its online connectivity.

Ice Raven has support for about:config options. The options available for customization via about:config makes it more similar in customization potential to desktop versions of Gecko powered web browsers such as Firefox, Waterfox, and Librewolf.

Additionally, Ice Raven has broad support for extensions that aren’t necessarily supported by other fenix based browsers. It’s worth noting that some add-ons may not work due to missing Mozilla-related dependencies. Additionally, with fenix-based browsers, site isolation isn’t as strong on Android devices.

Ice Raven also aims to strip as much telemetry or proprietary code with its source code as possible.

Ice Raven can’t be found on Google’s Play Store. Releases are published as .apk files to the Ice Raven Github repository.

Download (APK)

f droid logo

  • Eliminates many proprietary blobs
  • Support for extensions
  • Incorporates features from arkenfox, Tor uplift project

Mull Browser is forked from Fenix – which is Firefox (or more specifically, GeckoView) on Android. It’s open-source but is primarily developed by DivestOS, who also develops other privacy-conscious applications and the unofficial fork of LineageOS by the same name.

The coolest thing about Mull browser is that it’s pretty much privacy hardened from the go. Mull browser both enables many features from the Tor uplift project and uses preferences from the arkenfox user.js project.

Despite its out-of-the-box privacy hardening, DivestOS (and also avoidthehack) strongly recommends installing the uBlock Origin extension. As you may or may not know, uBlock Origin is a staple in the privacy community; it blocks wide-spectrum trackers, ads, and additional tracking methods on a webpage without compromising your privacy on its end.

Most notably, Mull browser eliminates many proprietary blobs (read: closed-source source code) from its own source code. It accomplishes this by using a script developed by Relan.

Mull Browser is available on F-droid; you won’t be able to find it Google’s Play Store.

Download (debug APK) Download (F-Droid)

At a minimum, to be listed as a recommendation on avoidthehack, privacy-oriented browsers must:

Be open-source

Given the modern state and role of the browser, browsers should be open-source to promote transparency above all else. Open-source browsers also promote customization in the form of building from source and/or forking as a default.

With that said, browsers forked from Firefox’s Gecko engine are preferred over Chromium forks.

Regularly updated

Browsers are often exploited (frequently using zero-days) as it is probably the most commonly used application/program on any given end-user device. Browsers listed here have timely updates to at least patch the latest vulnerabilities. This is especially important for forked browsers, which must keep up with the upstream to remain up-to-date with security patches.

Out of alpha or beta stages

Many browsers in alpha or beta stages are buggy or require additional attention to work properly. Additionally, a lot of browsers remain in a perpetual alpha or beta stage, never making it to a suitable release version.

Provide customization

The “best” privacy-oriented browsers provide a wealth of customization options inside the browser – without the help of extensions or add-ons – itself.

Customization allows users to tailor the browser to their wants and needs; customization in this aspect should allow for users to modify privacy-related settings, such as opting out of telemetry.

Naturally, customization is limited by the platform (operating system) on which a browser installation lives; across different operating systems, customization is relative.

Engage in limited telemetry or data collection

Browsers should not phone home any browsing related activity.

As for telemetry specifically, the browser should 1) allow users to opt-out of telemetry completely and 2) anonymize all information collected via telemetry. Browsers should not assign “unique IDs” or derive any hard to change information such as hardware UUIDs to phone home to remote servers.

On Android, you have numerous options for browsers; even of the privacy-focused variety.

Even of the privacy-focused variety, some browsers not found on this list will do very little for your privacy.

In fact, untrustworthy browsers can harm your privacy by silently feeding sensitive information back to the developer or some remote web server.

Be aware that true privacy browsers, such as the ones found here, give you more than just “inprivate browsing.”

They also give you more than just a mere illusion of privacy, which can be equally as dangerous as outright invading your online privacy.

Any browser on this list gives you more control over what information you share – unknowingly and knowingly – with the websites that you visit.

With that in mind, stay safe out there!

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular