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The best secure browsers for privacy: Expert tested

The best browsers for privacy help protect your online identity with third-party ad blockers, VPNs, and a pledge never to sell your data.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Kayla Solino
Brave | Best browser for privacy overall
brave browser
Best browser for privacy overall
View now View at Brave
Mozilla Firefox | Most secure browser for tracking protection
Mozilla Firefox browser
Mozilla Firefox
Most secure browser for tracking protection
View now View at Mozilla
The Tor browser | Best for anonymous browsing
The Tor browser
The Tor browser
Best for anonymous browsing
View now View at Tor Project
DuckDuckGo | Best browser for private searches
Best browser for private searches
View now View at DuckDuckGo
Mullvad Browser | Best for use with a VPN
Mullvad browser
Mullvad Browser
Best for use with a VPN
View now View at Mullvad

Web browsers have become flooded with ad-sponsored content, making browsers a key battleground for end-user privacy. While Chrome is the most widely used browser in the world, there are alternative browsers and ways to improve your security available to help you stay anonymous online.

Data is one of today's key ingredients for generating revenue. Online advertising companies can use web browsing histories to fingerprint individual browsers over time, creating shadow user profiles to reveal information including a user's interests, product searches, and more -- which can lead to targeted advertising. When you look for a privacy-focused browser, you will want to investigate how advertising trackers and cookies are managed, whether or not search histories are stored or shared, and whether or not the browser developer has a transparent privacy policy in place. 

Also: The best VPN services (and why you need one to protect your privacy)

What is the best secure browser for privacy in 2024?

ZDNET experts have kept a finger on the pulse of the secure browser market for decades and many of us have tried and tested different options throughout the years. Brave is our top pick for the best browser for privacy based on its approach to user privacy, ad tracking prevention, privacy settings, usability, and speed. 

Below, you will find other recommendations for secure browsers that can protect your privacy -- not only from cyberattacks but also from businesses that scrape, store, and sell your data. 

Best secure browsers for privacy in 2024

brave browser
Screenshot by Charlie Osborne/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Fast
  • Not in the traditional online ad business
  • Privacy-focused by default
  • Chromium challenger
  • Some users report compute resource issues
More Details

Brave is a Chromium-based browser that blocks ads, fingerprinting, and ad trackers by default.

Brave supports millions of users worldwide. The organization's business model relies on privacy-protecting ads that pay publishers and users when users pay attention to ads. The company is transparent about this revenue stream, and it is optional. Users are rewarded in crypto tokens if they opt into ad viewing.

Brave has several privacy-enhancing settings, including blocking third-party ad trackers, upgrading unsecured HTTPS connections, and blocking cookies and fingerprinting. Disabling invasive ads and trackers, the company says, improves loading times on desktop and mobile.

Also: The best web hosting services for building your dream website

Brave removed Google code from its Chromium to improve user privacy, including some account integration, background sync, and inline extensions. A "Tor mode" is also available, providing anonymized onion network routing. 

The browser developer also offers a VPN and firewall service that protects sessions, even outside the browser, and recently introduced a "secure" AI-based search engine.

Many users say the browser exceeds expectations, although others find some functionality, such as VPN connectivity, could use improvement. 

Brave also offers a feature called "Off the Record" (OTR) for users who may be victims of intimate partner violence. The browser developer says the feature "aims to help people who need to hide their browsing behavior from others who have access to their computer or phone."

Brave features: Chromium-based | Blocks third-party ad trackers | Blocks cookies | Incognito windows | Onion routing | VPN | Off the record browsing

Pros & Cons
  • Enhanced tracking prevention
  • Focus on accessibility
  • Trusted by millions of users
  • Strict tracking protection may break websites
  • May require heavy PC resources
More Details

Firefox is a must-have for individual browser privacy across multiple devices. 

One of Firefox's most important privacy features is enhanced tracking protection. Mozilla has borrowed Tor techniques to block browser fingerprinting, and Firefox developers are constantly seeking to improve tracking-prevention features.

Firefox is rich with choices to customize the browser for privacy. It blocks social media trackers, cross-site tracking cookies, tracking in private windows, crypto miners, and fingerprinting scripts. There is a "strict" mode, too, that might break some sites when trackers are hidden in content -- but there are ways to allow enhanced tracking protection for trusted sites. Furthermore, the introduction of Encrypted Client Hello (ECH) has recently improved.

Users enjoy Firefox's privacy focus but note that it can be a resource hog.

Another option for Firefox fans is Firefox Focus, a privacy-focused browser for iOS and Android that blocks trackers and has a built-in ad blocker. Mozilla continues to work on productivity boosters and improvements to speed and performance.

Mozilla also offers a VPN ($4.99/month), with the option to connect up to five devices to over 500 servers in 30 countries.

Mozilla Firefox features: Enhanced tracking protection | Firefox Focus for mobile | Strict privacy standards | DNS queries sent to a secure resolver service | Focus on accessibility | Encrypted Client Hello

The Tor browser
Screenshot by Charlie Osborne/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • High levels of anonymity
  • DuckDuckGo integration
  • Constant updates and improvements
  • Learning curve to use
  • Can be slow
More Details

Another excellent choice for improving your privacy on the web is the Tor browser, a non-profit project focused on anonymizing users online.

Its proprietary web browser disguises a user's IP address and activity by relaying it through a network of servers (nodes) run by volunteers. Bouncing your information around makes tracking exceptionally difficult, which is excellent if you don't want your ISP or anyone else spying on your online activity. 

Tor can be crucial for whistleblowers, journalists, activists, and people avoiding censorship. The Tor browser is also a popular choice for accessing the deep web: A collection of websites and pages inaccessible through traditional means, like search engines, in what is known as the "clear" web. 

Also: How to use Tor browser (and why you should)

The Tor browser's default search engine is DuckDuckGo, which will not log or store your search queries.

While it isn't a mainstream choice, the Tor browser is well-regarded for people who don't want to be tracked across the web. The Tor Project updates it frequently, and the browser is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Users applaud the network's uncompromising approach to privacy but note slow speeds and occasional problems with Captchas.

Due to the architecture of the Tor network, page loads in the Tor browser can be slower, and some sites might not work well. Nonetheless, the Tor browser is a privacy-preserving browser worthy of consideration.

The Tor browser features: High levels of security and anonymization | Onion routing | DuckDuckGo integration | Access to websites outside of the clear web

Screenshot by Charlie Osborne/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Available across different operating systems
  • Solid commitment to user privacy
  • Email protection settings
  • Bland browser design
More Details

When it comes to DuckDuckGo, user privacy comes first. 

The privacy-focused search engine and browser is a vocal supporter of consumer privacy rights and now handles millions of user search queries daily.

There is a growing appetite for privacy-focused alternatives to tech giants like Facebook and Google. DuckDuckGo's Privacy Essentials extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft's Edge has also proven popular. Its reputation is built on the idea that it does not collect user data but can provide the same search results as those that do. 

DuckDuckGo used to be a search engine rather than a full browser, but then released a mobile-friendly browser app and, now, a desktop version. The organization's browser provides a private search, website protection and blockers, web encryption, and more.

DuckDuckGo is experimenting with AI-assisted technologies to improve the search experience and has recently upgraded its browser. Users appreciate the firm's privacy focus, although some complain of censorship -- a concept DuckDuckGo staunchly denies

A new offering is Privacy Pro, a paid subscription. Users happy to pay $9.99/month (or $99.99 per year) will have access to a VPN, online personal information removal services, and identity theft restoration. 

DuckDuckGo features: Chrome and Firefox supported | Mobile and desktop private browser | Does not collect user data | AI experiments | No search engine query trackers | Data removal, identity restoration services

Mullvad browser
Screenshot by Charlie Osborne/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Two heavyweight privacy developers
  • Fingerprint, tracker blocks
  • Tor-based privacy features
  • New, so less thoroughly tested
More Details

Not to be confused with the Tor browser, the Mullvad Browser is marketed as the "Tor Browser without the Tor network." The Tor Project team built the browser, which is distributed by Mullvad, a respected Swedish virtual private network provider. 

The browser's idea is to emulate the Tor network by creating a similar fingerprint for all users, improving anonymity. Furthermore, the browser comes with a private mode out of the box, tracking and cookies are blocked, and online functions used to extract information from visitors—such as device identifiers—are prevented.

The Mullvad Browser is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, or as a Firefox extension.

You can use the browser as a standalone product or combine it with Mullvad VPN. Users have generally given positive reviews, although you may find yourself signing up for the VPN for the best setup -- and it's not the cheapest on the market.

However, you should remember that Mullvad was subject to a search warrant by the National Operations Department (NOA) of the Swedish Police in 2023. Mullvad staff said that as the customer data did not exist, law enforcement was left with nothing (and no customer information). 

Mullvad Browser features: Fingerprint masking approach | Removes online identifiers | Private mode enabled by default | Blocks trackers, cookies

What is the best browser for privacy?

Brave is our top pick for the best browser for privacy based on its approach to user privacy, ad tracking prevention, the wide range of privacy settings on offer, usability, and speed. However, no browser is perfect, so you must decide which option suits you best.

Best browser for privacy

Ad tracking prevention?

Mobile support?

Onion routing?


Mozilla Firefox

Available ✓



Available ✓


Mullvad Browser


Via Tor ✓

Which is the right browser for privacy for you?

There is no one size fits all, so refer to the table below to better understand which browser suits your use case.

Choose this...

If you want...


The best overall browser for privacy. Brave focuses on privacy and security as a default, and the addition of optional onion routing is a nice touch.

Mozilla Firefox

A secure browser that focuses on tracking. The Firefox tracking prevention program is multi-layered and will certainly help prevent you from being profiled online. 


A search engine or browser that never stores or logs your search queries. The new browser extend the original search engine functionality to mobile and desktop.


A system based on the onion routing network. You can access deep web websites and remain anonymous.

Mullvad Browser

To use it with a virtual private network (VPN). It helps that Mullvad is a one-stop-shop and you don't need to download and install additional privacy-protecting extensions.

Factors to consider when choosing a secure browser

When you are switching to a more secure browser, there are some important factors to consider:

  • Online identifiers: You should check if the browser tracks your activities, visits, or search queries. This data can be used to create profiles for targeted advertising and may be used to track you across different websites.
  • Audits: The best secure browsers will conduct frequent security audits and have consistent patch releases to fix vulnerabilities and bugs that could expose users to risk. 
  • Speed vs. security: Some browsers will route your traffic through a number of servers to vastly reduce the likelihood of you being tracked. However, you will need to decide how slow you're willing the connections and browsing to be.
  • VPN: If you want to use a VPN, consider whether or not the browser works well with one -- or if the browser offers a built-in solution.
  • Mobile support: Not every secure browser has a mobile-ready app, and this needs to be kept in mind if you want to stick with just one browser. 

How did we choose these browsers for privacy?

While investigating the best browsers for privacy in 2024, we compared each of these browsers and extensions to determine what makes them different and which is best for different use cases. 

  • Balance: The balance between managing user privacy and funding a business can be a tricky one for companies to manage, but as we've shown, many developers are willing to wave the security flag on behalf of users over potential opportunities to generate more revenue.
  • User experience: We reviewed customer feedback to ensure that the majority of users find the browsers easy to install and use.
  • Features: We like to see additional privacy-enhancing features, like onion routing. We chose providers who offer more than standard browsing experiences. 
  • Platform support: We selected browsers offering a range of support for different operating systems and platforms, as well as mobile coverage. 

How does a privacy browser work?

A privacy browser works by automatically erasing your browsing and search history and cookies. It also may limit web tracking, and some even help hide your location (IP address). Privacy-focused browsers may also promote virtual private network (VPN) usage and may include features designed to bypass censorship blocks and keep users as anonymous as possible, such as access to onion routing and refusing to log site visits or web searches.

Do I need a privacy browser?

If you are concerned about your online privacy, you should install a privacy browser or at least an extension. We have to take responsibility for our own privacy online these days, and you can't rely on companies to do the job for you. 

Also: How to delete yourself from internet search results and hide your identity online

We can recommend a few basic steps to take: Download one of the privacy-first browsers listed above that doesn't log your queries and activities, install a VPN, and use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption. 

Does using a private browsing window hide my IP address?

Private browsing sessions do not tend to mask your IP address. For example, an incognito window doesn't hide your IP address if you're using Chrome. It simply doesn't store your browser history, the information you've entered into forms, or what permissions you've given to sites you've visited. 

Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera all use a similar form of "anonymous" web window for browsing, but they aren't truly hiding your online identity. 

Also: The best VPN services (and whether it's worth trying free VPNs)

If you want to block your IP address from being viewed or tracked, you can download a VPN, which masks your IP address so your service provider (or anyone else, for that matter) can't see what you're doing.

What is the most common personal web security risk?

Honestly? Putting your personal or contact information on social media. If you have your full name, phone number, address, or place of work anywhere on your social media, someone can use it to wreak havoc on your personal accounts. 

To prevent this, avoid using your real name online where possible, turn off location tracking, and don't post about your place of work if you can help it. All it takes is a single piece of personal information for someone with very bad intentions to get ahold of your entire online presence -- and so if you're posting photos of you away from home and on holiday, for example, you're letting people know your home is vulnerable.

Also: The best security keys

Those innocent-looking name generator memes are another big issue; the ones that have you type out your first pet's name and your childhood street name (or something similar) to tell you your fortune or personality type. These are answers to common password recovery questions, so by letting the world know that your pet was called Fluffy, you could be handing over all of your personal accounts to internet criminals. 

Is DuckDuckGo actually private?

DuckDuckGo started out as a search engine that did not log your queries or allow advertisers to track you. The search engine is still there, but it is now bolstered by a browser -- a feature that fans have been requesting for years. 

Like other secure and private browsers on the market, DuckDuckGo isn't perfect, but the company behind the service has been an advocate for consumer rights and privacy since its inception and offers one of the most private browsing experiences out there. 

It's a project swiftly implementing various privacy-focused policies and technologies, and I could see it becoming an extremely popular browser in years to come. 

Are there other browsers worth considering?

Online privacy and security are hot topics today. The amount of data quietly collected on each and every one of us is staggering -- and beyond targeted advertisements, you may not realize it. 

The browsers we've recommended above can help tighten up your defenses against tracking and online monitoring, but as no browser is a perfect solution, you may also want to consider the alternatives below:

View at EpicView at WaterfoxView at MicrosoftView at Vivaldi

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