Internet browsers are the first step to accessing the internet. They are also the first step to both increasing your online privacy and controlling your personal information. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari all provide in-browser privacy settings for users. These options include private browsing, controlling activity logs, deleting cookies, and others.

For survivors of abuse and stalking, using these privacy options may increase their privacy and safety, particularly if they are concerned that an abusive person is physically monitoring their device activity. They can also help survivors have more control over how their personal information is collected and stored when they are online. However, browser privacy options are not going to protect from remote spying or monitoring if an abusive person is using spyware software. To learn more about spyware and other online privacy tips, visit techsafety.org/resources-survivors.

This handout discusses various options that can enhance a user’s privacy in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Some of the options discussed include the following.

Private browsing allows users to surf the internet without the browser collecting history. This is helpful if a survivor is concerned that someone may be monitoring their internet activity by going through the browser history. However, private browsing will not prevent someone from knowing what you’re doing online if they are looking over your shoulder or are monitoring your device with spyware.

Do not track is a setting that allows users to opt-out of third-party tracking, such as advertisers or sites on a website that you’re visiting. This feature is only for third-party tracking, which often tracks users for behavioral advertising purposes; it doesn’t prevent the website that you’re visiting to collect information about you.

All the browsers in this handout allow users to delete their bowser history. Keep in mind that if someone is monitoring your computer use, deleting your browser history may appear suspicious. However, regularly deleting your browsing history can increase privacy.

Google Chrome

1. Private Browsing: Incognito Mode:

 In a new window, click on the Chrome menu icon.

  • Choose “New incognito window.”
  • A new window will open with a message explaining incognito mode. You will remain in incognito mode until you close this browser window.

2. Do Not Track: Click on the Menu icon in the top right corner and choose “Settings.”

  • Click on “Show advanced settings” at the bottom of the page. Check the box to “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic.”
  • Additionally, Google uses “Protect My Choices,” which installs opt-out, site-specific cookies on your computer. This requires installation of an extension instead of just a change in settings. It also doesn’t stop websites from collecting information about your activity, it just stops them from showing you targeted ads.
  • Visit Chrome webstore and install "Protect My Choices."
  • You'll see a pop-up confirming that it has been added to Chrome.

3. History:

  • Click on the Menu icon in the top right corner and choose “History.”
  • You can choose to “Clear browsing data” to delete the entire browsing history or you can choose certain pages and select “Remove selected items.”

4. Additional Privacy Options:

  • Click on the Menu icon in the top right corner and choose “Settings.” (You can also navigate to the “Settings” section from the History page.)
  • Click on “Show advanced settings” at the bottom of the page. Here you can determine whether Chrome can (1) enable phishing and malware protection, (2) use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed, (3) offer to save your passwords, and (4) use Autofill for webforms.

5. Google also now offers Privacy Checkup that allows you to review your privacy settings of any Google products you use, such as YouTube. Visit https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup/ for more information.

Internet Explorer:

1. Private Browsing: InPrivate:

  • In a new window, click on the Tools icon (gear) at the top right corner under the red exit icon.
  • Click on “Safety” and then choose “InPrivate Browsing.
  • A new window will open with an explanation of InPrivate Browsing. You will remain in this mode until you close this browser window.

2. Do Not Track:

  • In a new window, click the Tools icon in the top right corner.
  • Click on “Safety” and then select to “Turn on Tracking Protection”  and “Turn on Doo Not Track Requests.”

3. Additional Privacy Options:

  • Click on the Tools icon in the top right corner (round gear). Choose “Internet Options.
  • Under “General” you can choose to have browser history delete on exit or you can delete your current history.
  • Under “Privacy” you can:
    • Choose the level of privacy you want for your browser. This ranges from “Block All Cookies” to “Medium” (blocks cookies from sites that do not have a compact privacy policy) to “Accept All Cookies.” Read all the options and choose what you prefer.
    • Check the box to never let websites request your physical location. 

Mozilla Firefox

1. Private Browsing:

  • In a new window, click the menu icon in the top right corner and choose “New Private Window.” 
  • A new window will appear explaining Firefox’s Private Browsing option. You will remain in this mode until you close this browser window. 

2. Do Not Track:

  • In a new window, click the “Options” icon (round gear, which may appear in middle of the pop up box).
  • In the box that opens, choose the “Privacy” tab.
  • Under “Tracking,” choose “Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked.”

History:

  • Under the same Privacy menu as the Tracking option, you can choose for Firefox to “Never Remember History.”
  • You can also clear all previous History in this window.

4. Additional Privacy Options:

  • Click on the Options icon (round gear).
  • Choose “Advanced.” Under “Data Choices,” you can choose what information Mozilla is allowed to collect about your browser usage.  
  • Choose “Security.” In this section, you can select to receive warnings when sites are trying to install add-ons. You can also manage passwords (including choosing to not have them be remembered).

Safari 8 (Yosemite):

1. Private Browsing:

  • Click File, and choose “New Private Window.”
  • When in Private Browsing mode, your address and search field will have a dark background with white text.
  • To stop using Private Browsing, close the Private Browsing window or switch to another Safari window that isn’t using Private Browsing.

2. Do Not Track

  • Go to Preferences, and select the Privacy Tab.
  • Select “Website tracking: Ask websites not to track me.”

3. History

  • Go to History, and select “Clear History and Website Data…”
  • Select from the drop down menu the time period you would like your history data to be deleted.
  • Click “Clear History.”

4. Additional Privacy

  • Go to Preferences, and select the Privacy Tab.
  • You can limit or block websites cookies and website data. You can also “Remove All Website Data.”
  • You can also limit a website’s use of your location to provide services and features. You can choose to be prompted before a website uses your location or deny it without prompting you first. 

Download this page in a handout version (in PDF).


© 2015 National Network to End Domestic Violence, Safety Net Project.

This project is supported by Grant No. #2013-TA-AX-K006 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.