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November 19, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Compartmentalize Browsing

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Companies and governments want your data for their own financial and political gain. Unfortunately for your privacy, that data is all too easy to acquire. Thanks to cookies, location and device tracking, share buttons, and even more tech tricks, there are seemingly more ways to harvest your information than there are to protect it. Even incognito browsing only prevents your online activity from being stored on your devices (such as cookies). However, it does not prevent websites from tracking you while in a session, as many users believe. So what’s a person to do? Short of never using the internet again, most users can benefit from using a few different privacy-protecting methods. Tho se methods might include enabling a VPN, using ad blockers, and deleting social media profiles. Another option is to compartmentalize browsing. Here’s how it works:

  • What is browser compartmentalization?
  • Why should I try it?
  • How does it work?

What is Browser Compartmentalization?

There are many different browser option available to internet users. Popular choices include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Edge. Most people choose their favourite browser and use it for all internet activity, such as checking social media, sending emails, shopping online, and making general web searches. Although using a single browser is convenient, it also better allows organizations to track you from site to site.

In order to minimize their tracking ability, many people are choosing to compartmentalize browsing. What this means is that they use different browsers for different activities. For example, a person may use Chrome for all websites that require a login, such as social media or emails. However, all of their general browsing (the activities that don’t require an identifying login) instead happens on Mozilla Firefox. While at least two different browsers are required for compartmentalized browsing, some people choose to use even more to increase their privacy further.

Why Should I Compartmentalize Browsing?

Because tracking cookies cannot follow users across browsers, using multiple browsers reduces how far a company can track your activities. In an “accounts-only” browser, the websites that you log in to know your name and some other data about you, based on the information you give them. However, those sites can’t learn more about you from your offsite browsing because all of that activity is done in a separate browser. Meanwhile, your “browsing-only” platform may be able to collect search-based data about you (such as your interests and hobbies) but they won’t know your personal identity because you have never signed in to anything in the browser. Because the cookies collected in each browser can’t share information, you drastically cut down on the amount of data any one organization can harvest from you, thus increasing your privacy.

How Do I Compartmentalize Browsing?

The best thing about this method of enhancing your online privacy is that it’s very simple.

  • Step One: Download two (or more) different browsers.
  • Step Two: Determine which activities will be assigned to each browser. You could divide them by accounts-only, browsing-only, etc.
  • Step Three: Label each browser so you don’t accidentally mix them up.
  • Step Four: Enjoy increased privacy.

While compartmentalized browsing is a great way to prevent third-parties from tracking you through the use of cookies, all users should keep in mind that this method does not hide online activities from an internet service provider.

To hide your activity from an ISP, use HotBot VPN in addition to compartmentalized browsers.

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