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If you care about your privacy, you need to change these browser settings right now

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James Martin/CNET

Privacy is now a priority among browser-makers, but they may not go as far as you want in fighting pervasive ad industry trackers on the web. Here’s a look at how you can crank up your privacy settings to outsmart that online tracking.

Problems like  have elevated privacy protection on Silicon Valley’s priority list by showing how companies compile reams of data as you traverse the internet. Their goal? To build a richly detailed user profile so that you can become the target of more accurate, clickable and thus profitable advertisements.

, with Google pushing aggressively for an interactive web to rival native apps and Apple moving more slowly — partly out of concern new features will worsen security and be annoying for users. Privacy adds another dimension to the competition and to your browser decision.

. A CNET series is looking into the details.

James Martin/CNET

Apple has made privacy a top priority in all its products, including Safari. For startup Brave, privacy is a core goal, and Mozilla and Microsoft are touting privacy as a way to differentiate their browsers from Google Chrome. It’s later to the game, but  despite Google’s reliance on ad revenue.

For all of the browsers listed here, you can give yourself a privacy boost by changing the default search engine. For instance, try . Although its search results may not be as useful or deep as Google’s, DuckDuckGo is a longtime favorite among the privacy-minded for its refusal to track user searches.

Other universal options that boost privacy include disabling your browser’s location tracking and search engine autocomplete features, turning off password autofills, and regularly deleting your browsing history. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, consider trying one of the that work with all browsers. (You can also check out our roundup of .)

In the meantime, though, here are some simple settings you can change in your browser to help keep a good portion of advertising trackers off your trail.

Chrome browser privacy settings to change

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James Martin/CNET

The world’s  is also generally thought to be one of the when used straight out of the box. On the plus side, however, Chrome’s flexible and open-source underpinnings have allowed independent developers to release a slew of privacy-focused extensions to shake off trackers. 

Brett Pearce/CNET

In the , click Extensions on the left and type the name of the extension you’re looking for into the search bar. Once you find the correct extension in the search results, click Add to Chrome. A dialog will pop up explaining which permissions the extension will have for your browser. Click Add extension to bring the extension into your browser.

If you change your mind, you can manage or remove your extensions by opening Chrome and clicking the three dot More menu on the right. Then select More Tools and then Extensions. From here, you’ll also be able to see more about the extension by clicking Details

Here are four extensions to look at as you get started: , , and .

If you’re on Android, sorry: extensions don’t work. So you’ll have to switch browsers altogether to something like .

In the same three-dot menu in Chrome, you can also block third-party cookies by selecting Settings, then scrolling down to the Privacy and security section and clicking Cookies and other site data. From here, select Block third-party cookies

Read more:

Safari browser privacy settings to change

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Angela Lang/CNET

By default, Safari turns on its proprietary tool to keep you a step ahead of privacy pests. Even so, the tool hasn’t always worked smoothly since its . Google researchers spotted how Intelligent Tracking Prevention itself could be , though Apple buttoned down the problem.

Safari 14, announced in June and arriving later in 2020 with new , will be able to tell you which ad trackers are running on the website you’re visiting and give you a 30 day report of the known trackers it’s identified while you were browsing. It’ll also tell you which websites those trackers came from.

To check that blocking is on, open Safari and click Preferences, then Privacy. The box beside Prevent cross-site tracking should be checked. While you’re there, you can also . Click Manage Website Data to see which sites have left their trackers and cookies hanging out in your browser. Click Remove next to any of the individual trackers you’re ready to get rid of, or just nuke the whole list by clicking Remove All at the bottom of your screen. 

Cookies can be helpful, not just invasive, but for stronger privacy you can block them altogether — both first-party cookies from the website (ameblo.jp) publisher and third-party cookies from others like advertisers. To do so, check the box beside Block all cookies.

If you’re still looking for another layer of privacy, you can also install helpful extensions from the App Store like  or . 

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Edge browser privacy settings to change

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Microsoft

Microsoft’s Edge browser includes some simplified privacy and tracker blocking options on its Tracker prevention screen. Within Edge, select the three dot menu icon in the top right corner and select Settings. From the menu that then appears on the left, select Privacy and services

You’ll be offered three settings to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict. By default, Edge uses the Balanced setting, which blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited while still being lenient enough to save most sites from some of the loading problems that may come with tighter security. Likewise, Edge’s Strict setting may interfere with how some sites behave, but will block the greatest number of trackers. Even the Basic setting will still block trackers used for cryptomining and fingerprinting. 

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Firefox browser privacy settings to change

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Angela Lang/CNET

Firefox’s default privacy settings are more protective than those of Chrome and Edge, and the browser has more privacy options under the hood, too.

From inside Firefox’s main menu — or from inside the three lined menu on the right side of the toolbar — select Preferences. Once the Preferences window opens, click Privacy & Security. From here, you’ll be able to choose between three options: Standard, Strict and Custom. Standard, the default Firefox setting, blocks trackers in private windows, third party tracking cookies and cryptominers. The Strict setting may break a few websites, but it blocks everything blocked in Standard mode, plus fingerprints and trackers in all windows. Custom is worth exploring for those who want to fine tune how trackers are being blocked. 

To apply your new tracking settings after you’ve selected your level of privacy, click the Reload All Tabs button that appears. 

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Brave browser privacy settings to change

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Brave

When it comes to anti-tracking tools, Safari’s latest privacy updates are still short of most of those found in the . By default, Brave blocks all ads, trackers, third-party cookies and fingerprinters while still achieving . Brave also offers a built-in , a heavy-duty tracker blocking option, and .

Inside Brave’s main menu, select Preferences to reveal the Settings panel on the left. Select Shields to see a list of privacy options on the right side of the screen. By selecting the Advanced view, you’ll be able to choose which kinds of trackers to block. By scrolling down, you’ll also be able to block login buttons and embedded content from Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. For even more protection and privacy fine tuning, explore Additional Settings on the left, and select Privacy and security.

Read more: 

For more, check out  and our .

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