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These private browsers protect you from sneaky apps. Time to ditch Chrome?

Most mobile browsers offer a typical collection of tools to protect your online privacy. They block those notorious third-party cookies and trackers, prevent websites from capturing your device’s fingerprint, and smash pop-ups – you get the idea. But it’s not enough. Advertisers have several other ways to track you across the web and the rest of your apps. This is where Brave and DuckDuckGo are looking to stand out with their latest updates.

Brave and DuckDuckGo’s mobile browsers go above and beyond to make sure your personal data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Along with the usual assortment of security features, they can prevent trackers hidden in all your installed apps from handing your information over to malicious advertisers and data brokers.

Here’s how Brave and DuckDuckGo work and how to use them.

How it works

The majority of apps are integrated with trackers from dozens of third parties that you don’t even know about. A study, for example, found that nearly 90% of the one million Android apps surveyed shared user data with Google. That’s why when you search for shoes on one app, you see ads for them on another. While this is a much bigger issue on Android, iPhone owners are also unsafe despite Apple’s best efforts. Many of these apps claim that this data collection is anonymous and for advertising and analytics purposes, but it’s been proven time and time again how remarkably simple it is to link this data to an individual.

(Image credit: Getty)

Brave and DuckDuckGo act as data brokers between your phone and the server an app transmits your information to. Based on a list of thousands of known malicious destinations, they detect where an app is sending data and block it if it matches an entry on the list. Since they only target an app’s malicious links, they don’t affect its normal functions.

On a weather app, most of which are loaded with third-party trackers. For example, switching to Brave’s or DuckDuckGo’s prevention engine will kill its shady activities behind the scenes, but you’ll still get thunderstorm warnings.

How to Use DuckDuckGo Tracking Protection

The DuckDuckGo browser is equipped with a tracking prevention engine that intercepts all outgoing connections from your applications and blocks those that its dataset identifies as harmful. That’s not a vpn and does not redirect your phone’s connections. Plus, after you set it up, it largely works offline so your personal data never leaves your phone, not even to DuckDuckGo’s servers.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the DuckDuckGo app, you’ll also find a real-time view of blocked trackers, the networks they sent data to, and what app they came from. When I left it on for a few days, I was shocked at the amount of trackers and data it managed to handle. I discovered that apps I didn’t even suspect were malicious were filled with brand trackers I had never heard of.

What’s particularly remarkable about the DuckDuckGo feature is that it also tells you what kind of data these apps were siphoning off your phone. The Airbnb app, for example, shared with an analytics company my device model, unique ID, city, etc., information that can help it fingerprint me and track me on the Web.

DuckDuckGo Tracking Protection is only available on the Android client and at the time of writing it was in closed beta. To join the free private waiting list, head to Settings > App Tracking Protection on The DuckDuckGo Android App and tap “Join Private Waitlist”. Once it grants you access, you can enable “App Tracking Protection” in DuckDuckGo’s Settings > More.

How to use Brave Firewall + VPN

While DuckDuckGo’s offering works well, you can’t use a VPN when it’s enabled and it’s limited to Android. Brave, in comparison, offers a more comprehensive solution. Its browser not only terminates most third-party trackers in other apps, but its firewall is also integrated with a VPN. Moreover, it supports Android and iOS.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Similar to DuckDuckGo, Brave’s system-wide security feature relies on a blocklist (curated by Guardian) to detect and stop third-party trackers. Its VPN feature further allows you to browse the web from a different location and IP address. On top of that, Brave encrypts your connection so it can’t be intercepted.

Unlike DuckDuckGo, Brave’s firewall isn’t free. It costs $10 per month, which lets you use the VPN on up to five devices.