In a study that looked at user’s data collected by web browsers, Microsoft Edge and the Yandex browser bagged the lowest privacy rating. While Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari landed in the middle, Brave Browser was ranked the highest.
Doug Leith, a computer scientist from Trinity College Dublin, looked at browsers for how they sent data to the backend servers. He examined the unique identifiers, as well as information related to typed URLs, which can be used to track down users.
Microsoft Edge and Yandex both sent identifiers tied to the device hardware. The unique identifiers, which can be used to link apps on the device, remained the same despite re-installing the browsers. Edge sends the information about the device to a Microsoft server located at self.events.data.microsoft.com.
Browsers sending data back to the servers are not harmful; in fact, it’s a common practice. However, it becomes dangerous when the same information can be used to de-anonymize a user. In this case, the unique identifiers can be used to track IP addresses over time.
Another big problem with Edge is the search autocomplete “functionality that shares details of web pages visited, both transmit web page information to servers that appear unrelated to search autocomplete.” Leith claims that one cannot disable this Microsft Edge behavior; however, this particular feature can be turned off.
A Microsoft representative told Ars Technica that Edge collects diagnostic data to improve the product upon the user’s content. This data collection can be turned off in the browser settings.
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The study discovered that the autocomplete feature that can transmit data to backend servers was on by default in all the studied browsers except Brave. However, all of them allowed users to turn it off.