Trees and Robots

by Jacopo Scazzosi

Privacy conscious browsing

My choices for a more privacy-conscious browsing experience that “just works”. No configuration required.

Browsers

My primary browser of choice is Firefox. This is mainly dictated by my appreciation of Mozilla’s incredible work over the years and their persistent commitment to their guiding principles, which are well summarized in their mission statement:

Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

Albeit with some notable hiccups 1 2, I feel that Mozilla’s track record in terms of being respectful of their users’ interest cannot be matched by any other major browser vendor.

Furthermore, all performance issues I had encountered in the past have disappeared with the Quantum release and its subsequent updates. As of today, Firefox feels either on-par with or faster than Google Chrome, which was once miles ahead of any other browser on the market.

In addition to Firefox I also use Safari and Vivaldi. As a Mac user who often works on the move, Safari’s low power consumption makes it a better option for long work stretches on battery power. As a reluctant user of Google’s services, Vivaldi delivers a better user experience on websites optimized for Google Chrome as both browsers are built on Chromium [3]. Plus, Chromium’s development tools are still the best ones available across the market.

Why not simply use Google Chrome? Because I find myself more and more worried by Google’s dominance over the Web, particularly considering that its business model is fundamentally based on user tracking.

Extensions

My selection criterias for browser extensions are the following:

My go-to browser extensions are DuckDuckGo Privacy Essential, uBlock Origin, PrivacyBadger and Firefox Multi-Account Containers.

Search engine

My search engine of choice is DuckDuckGo. Once an ambitious but relatively unreliable search engine, it has evolved to the point in which it works very well for the vast majority of my searches. In those rare cases in which it doesn’t, the !g shortcut makes it very easy to switch to Google without my hands ever leaving the keyboard. DuckDuckGo demonstrates the viability of a different business model for search engines, a model that does not thrive on tracking users throughout their online activity. Plus, it’s called DuckDuckGo. What’s not to like?

DNS

I generally use Cloudflare’s DNS servers, 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1. They are extremely fast, their IP addresses are easy to remember, DNS propagation usually hits them within 10 - 15 minutes and they have a strong privacy-first policy backed by a privacy-compatible business model.

VPN

When I want to take things up a notch, I tunnel all my traffic through TunnelBear. Reasonably fast, reasonably priced, I appreciate their no logs, human-readable privacy policy and the ease of use of their client applications. Furthermore, TunnelBear’s entire infrastructure is audited on a yearly basis, with audit reports made publicly available. I admire their transparency and I wish more companies would commit to such practices. I also enjoy the many bear-based metaphors across their brand.

Footnotes

[1]: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1172126

[2]: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1194583

[3]: although open-source, Chromium is still developed and controlled by Google. Adoption of Chromium-based browsers still plays in favour of Google’s dominance over the Web’s technological landscape, albeit in a lesser fashion than using Google Chrome itself.