If Google sticks to its roadmap, by this time next year Chrome will no longer allow websites to use third-party cookies, which are cookies that come from outside their own domains. The change theoretically makes it vastly more difficult for advertisers to track your activities on the web and then serve you targeted ads.
Because of course Google doesn’t want to kneecap the online ad industry — the one it dominates and from which it makes all its money. Instead, Google wants to replace the third-party tracking cookie with a complicated set of (bird-themed) technologies that are meant to let ad companies target specific demographics like age and location, while at the same time allowing the people who are targeted to remain anonymous.
Tor is the encrypted, anonymous way to browse the web that keeps you safe from prying eyes, right?
Well, no, not always.
Blogger and security researcher Chloe spent a month tempting unscrupulous Tor exit node operators with a vulnerable honeypot website to see if anyone was looking for passwords to steal.
In all, the trap sprung for twelve exit nodes, raising a finger of suspicion for them and reminding us that you can’t get complacent about security even if you’re using Tor.
Tor is a bit of heavy duty open source security software that’s famously used to access anonymous, hidden services (the so-called Dark Web) but, more commonly, used as a way to access the regular internet anonymously and in a way that’s resistant to surveillance.
Tor (short for The Onion Router) works by sending your encrypted network traffic on an eccentric journey between Tor ‘nodes’. At each step along the way each Tor node helps keep you safe by never knowing what’s in your message and never knowing more about your data’s journey than the node it came from and the next one it’s going to.
“The long wait is over,” Apple WebKit engineer John Wilander announced on Tuesday: the latest update to the Safari browser is blocking third-party cookies by default for all users.
Safari 13.1 was released on Tuesday, bringing full cookie blocking and other updates to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) privacy feature. What it means: online advertisers and analytics firms will no longer be able to use our browser cookies to follow us around like bloodhounds as we wander from site to site, tracking and mapping our interests and behavior for whatever profit-motivated, privacy-wrecking purposes they might have.
Is this is a big deal? Not really, Wilander said in a post on the WebKit team’s blog, given that previous work has meant that most cookies are already blocked:
It might seem like a bigger change than it is.
But we’ve added so many restrictions to ITP since its initial release in 2017 that we are now at a place where most third-party cookies are already blocked in Safari.
Safari thus joins other browsers that either plan to or are already blocking third-party tracking cookies by default, including the Tor browser. Mozilla rolled out the privacy enhancement in September 2019, announcing that Firefox would block both tracking cookies and cryptomining by default.
We study six browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser. Chrome is by far the most popular browser, followed by Safari and Firefox. Between them these browsers are used for the great majority of web access. Brave is a recent privacyorientated browser, Edge is the new Microsoft browser and Yandex is popular amongst Russian speakers (second only to Chrome).
In summary, based on our measurements we find that the browsers split into three distinct groups from this privacy perspective.
In the first (most private) group lies Brave
In the second Chrome, Firefox and Safari
And in the third (least private) group lie Edge and Yandex.
Used “out of the box” with its default settings Brave is by far the most private of the browsers studied. We did not find any use of identifiers allowing tracking of IP address over time, and no sharing of the details of web pages visited with backend servers