It's impossible for mainstream browsers to respect your privacy.

Thoughts Nov 30, 2020

If you’re not concerned about browser privacy, you should be. The browser is where we work on the web all day. It can remember every website visited, every button clicked, and even every place the mouse has hovered over. And since we spend nearly seven hours a day online, we should be more than just concerned about our browser’s lack of privacy. We should be terrified.

How much does a browser really know about us?

Former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt said, “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” That was back in 2010. What could Google potentially know about us now?

All ad-based browsers must violate privacy.

Like vampires live off of blood, ad-based browsers live off of personal information. To survive, they need data so they can advertise at a mind-numbing rate. Once a browser assumes an advertising-based business model, the user automatically, in some way, becomes the product. While services are monetarily free, everyone pays an exorbitant price with attention and privacy. To several degrees, browsers do this by remembering every single search, serving up a steady diet of online ads, and relentlessly stalking users with third-party trackers.

Chrome is the biggest privacy culprit.

I think we’ve had this suspicion all along. While Chrome hordes data to enhance the user experience, it turns around and uses it to track and market to as many people as possible. A recent Washington Post article reported Chrome allowed an absurd 11,000+ trackers into the browser in a single week. Even though users can modify some privacy settings, by default, they track everything.

As for ads, they come whether the user likes it or not. Google says this on its support page. “You can't stop getting ads online, but you can remove some unwanted ads. Blocking an ad stops you from seeing ads from that advertiser. If an advertiser has multiple websites, you might have to block several ads.” That sounds like a losing battle. As soon one ad is shut down one, five more pop up.

Firefox and Brave are nowhere near perfect.

Firefox and Brave may pride themselves on protecting privacy, but they still run ad-based browsers. While Firefox has tracking protection by default, it doesn’t block ads automatically or very well. Most users prefer to use an extension like AdBlock or Poper Blocker with Mozilla’s web browser. And it’s no wonder, seeing that over 95% of its revenue comes from royalties by having Google as the default search engine in their browser.

Initially, Brave was created with a built-in adblocker. But now it replaces conventional ads with “privacy-respecting” ones. They don’t track exactly where someone has been on the web, but their browser will place ads based on the type of content someone views, especially if they’re looking for a product or service. Once again, to make Brave free for users, they have to play the ad game.

Is a browser without ads (and trackers) even possible?

Ultimately, a browser that makes money with ads has to do some level of tracking to get the right ads in front of its audience. Unfortunately, these days being on the web and seeing ads seem to be synonymous. One can’t exist without the other.

But as more people work online in the wake of COVID-19, now more than ever, we need an online workspace that is free from ads and trackers. Working in the current ad-based browsers is like having a salesman knocking on your office door every 30 seconds - it’s incredibly frustrating. But the only way a browser could completely get rid of ads (and the trackers that feed them) is to adopt a subscription-based model.

Finally, a browser that can block ads without remorse.

A browser built specifically for the 800 million people that work online would never accept an ad-based business model. And by ditching that model, it can also ditch online ads, for good. Without the need for ads, there’s no need for third-party trackers either.

Sidekick has adopted this model and built a browser for those who work on the web. In this browser, a built-in ad blocker stops ads and data trackers by default. And it always will because, unlike every other browser, it’s in Sidekick’s best interest to do so. Now any data that’s collected (and it's really only data about your setting preferences) is really for the sole purpose of a better user experience.

Sidekick also offers enterprise-grade security for teams who want to protect their data cloud from their remote workers’ devices. Features like shared-password protection, two-factor authentication, and an embedded VPN make Sidekick the ultimate browser for teams that collaborate online.

It’s 2020, and the world is now working on the web. Instead of using our data to put the most relevant ads in front of us, shouldn’t our browser work to make us more productive online?

Sidekick is changing the way the world works online. To learn more, visit meetsidekick.com.

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