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Ever wondered why there are many internet browsers? Read this

Isromar | Pixabay

The critically acclaimed author Gabriel García Márquez once said, “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.” As a concept, privacy is as old as Ancient Greece. The ability to compartmentalize and seclude information has always been valued and the loss of that ability becomes the subject of humiliation, rejection and taboo. 

These consequences have become more devastating as society increases its dependence on technology, specifically the internet. Where once the chief demand among consumers lied in usability and convenience, the demand of the consumer now lies in privacy and security. 

This demand has commoditized privacy into a quality that can be competed for amongst different internet browsers. 

The big dog in this fight is Google Chrome, as it is by far the most popular browser. Last summer, Google released its “Privacy Sandbox,” or a virtual environment that combines user privacy and personalization in terms of ads. The main issues that Google addresses are how the extreme treatment of cookies, or pieces of data that help websites track visits and activity in order to personalize user experience, ultimately hurt the user.

 By blocking cookies, advertising becomes less relevant and will cause technology developers to rely more on biometrics to establish individuality. The development of this set of “open standards” for privacy is sound in theory but presents itself as a conflict of interest for Google. 

To rationalize this, Google remarks on how developers are slowly migrating towards mobile apps in order to maximize advertisements. By keeping the ads, not only will Google benefit from having developers work on its platforms, but the company is allowed to use the data collected by the cookies. The issue with cookies is not in their logic, as companies need data in order to identify their target market, establish demographics, and generate the greatest amount of revenue. The main problem is that cookies are invasive.  

Because of this, other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Brave have enacted large-scale blocking of third-party cookies by default. Protections are now starting to be put in place that block the collection of biometric data and increase session encryption. Microsoft Edge now has a feature known as Tracker Prevention that categorizes tracking software based on safety and the type of information taken, restricting storage access and blocks software before loading. Mozilla has banned over 200 Firefox add-on extensions due to fears of remote execution of malicious code. Brave has over 10 million active users.

The increased competition between internet browsers undoubtedly benefits the consumer, as the advancements and focus on privacy and tools used to combat it are “en vogue.” No longer will companies hide behind shadows and façades of convenience. Attacking issues head on will only benefit internet browsers, however, a question arises that cannot be taken lightly: why do they have to compete? Although this sounds like naïveté, companies can collaborate on the different privacy standards that are needed to protect the users and implement them into their browser. 

This allows for companies to focus on more aesthetic decisions and for users to use any browser without fear of their information being used without their consent. 

Mozilla Firefox’s principal engineer Tanvi Vyas stated at a conference dedicated to internet security, “Firefox, Edge, Brave and Safari all have anti-tracking protections by default and they all vary a little bit. They all have different tradeoffs, but in the end we’re all trying to improve protections and we’re learning from each other on how to do that.” 

With this being said, in order for privacy to truly improve, collaboration is key.

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