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You are here: Home Blogs Community "Intelligent tracking prevention": New Safari privacy measure still doesn't measure up to GNU IceCat

"Intelligent tracking prevention": New Safari privacy measure still doesn't measure up to GNU IceCat

by Georgia Young Contributions Published on Oct 24, 2017 11:49 AM

In September, Apple included a new privacy feature in its Safari Web browser as part of its latest iOS and macOS updates. Called "intelligent tracking prevention," it keeps certain Web sites from tracking users around the Web, effectively blocking the ads that follow wherever you browse.

Safari is not free software, so while Apple has taken a step in the right direction by trying to help computer users avoid being tracked by advertisers, it's not enough (and it doesn't negate the fact that there are many other reasons to avoid Apple). And although being able to avoid third-party cookies is the best anti-tracking measure a Web browser can offer, Safari and other widely used browsers, including Chrome, Chromium, Mozilla, and Internet Explorer, all still allow them. (Riseup offers a useful browser privacy scorecard that evaluates some of the most popular Web browsers.)

Fortunately, there is a better option for privacy-respecting Web browsing: GNU IceCat.

GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser, and when it comes to protecting your privacy as you browse the Web, it is a better choice for you than Safari because:

  • First, GNU IceCat is free software, as is Firefox. Safari is not. Because anybody can inspect the code of a free software package, none of the package's activities are kept secret -- if free software was spying on you, then you -- or anyone -- could discover that by looking at the code.

  • GNU IceCat includes GNU LibreJS, which addresses the problem of proprietary JavaScript by easily identifying it, allowing users to avoid it.

  • GNU IceCat also includes the HTTPS Everywhere extension, which encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

  • And it includes SpyBlock, based on Adblock Plus, which blocks privacy trackers while browsing, and blocks all third-party requests when in private browsing mode.

  • IceCat also prevents the leaking of private information through referers. Referer logging tells the Web server what page linked you to your current request. No widely used browsers aside from IceCat address this issue, and even some lesser-known, privacy-oriented browsers let this information slip through.

  • Finally, GNU IceCat includes fingerprinting countermeasures. A fingerprint is information collected about your computer in order to identify it, even when cookies are turned off.

If you haven't tried out GNU IceCat, go for it! You only have greater privacy -- and freedom -- to gain. You can also contribute to the IceCat manual, making it easier for others to start using this browser.

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