There are plenty of different ways you can ensure security and privacy in your Web browser. You can delete your history after each use, for example, or use your browser’s history-free private browsing mode. You can add a Do Not Track plug-in, or hide your IP address by going through a proxy. Or… you can simply download the free Epic Privacy Browser and get all the privacy features imaginable, all of them active by default.
Built on the Chromium platform, Epic Privacy Browser doesn’t allow plug-ins, retains no history, and blocks third-party cookies. With a single click, you can redirect your Web surfing through Epic’s own built-in proxy, thereby hiding your IP address. Epic always broadcasts the industry standard “Do Not Track” message, but also actively works to detect and block ad networks, social networks, and Web analytics systems that track your surfing activity. Across the board, it’s designed for privacy.
If you’re familiar with Chrome, you already know how to use Epic. Download it, install it, and start surfing. Its default home page, the same page that it displays for a new tab, contains eight panels for your favorite sites. Two of them are already populated, one with a “how it works” page and one linking to Epic’s private search; more about search later.
Chrome’s new tab page automatically populates its panels with your most-used sites. Epic doesn’t keep any history, so it can’t know which sites you use most. You’ll need to click each panel and manually enter whatever URL you wish.
The home page also displays the number of third-party cookies blocked, as well as the number of trackers blocked. Of course, these statistics cover the current session only, since (I’ll say it again) Epic doesn’t keep any history.
Every Web page request sends your IP address to a server; without the IP address the server wouldn’t know where to send its reply. Based on your IP address, a website can roughly determine your physical location. For example, Google uses this ability to serve up localized results, and to display using the language appropriate to your location.
If you’d rather not give away your location, Epic offers a built-in proxy. Just click the icon at the end of the Address Bar to router your traffic through Epic’s secure proxy. Any website that tries to locate you based on your IP address will think you’re in New Jersey, where the proxy server resides
Epic’s own search page says it’s “powered by the world’s leading search engines,” but it doesn’t give away information to those engines. It doesn’t try to guess what you’re typing, and it doesn’t send referrer data to websites that you link to from its search results. Your queries get routed through Epic’s proxy server automatically.
Epic also automatically routes queries to major search engines through the proxy. This prevents the search service from linking your search terms to your IP address.
Do Not Track
Do Not Track
Websites track your surfing habits for a number of different reasons. Services that buy advertising space on multiple websites track which ads you’ve seen. Analytics services help websites measure things like the number of unique site visitors and the number of views each page gets. Social media buttons let you easily share a page, but also track your page visits.
Mozilla introduced the Do Not Track header for Firefox in 2011; Internet Explorer, Opera, and others soon followed suit. The problem is that compliance is strictly voluntary; ad services are free to ignore the header. That’s why Epic actively blocks a wide variety of tracking methods. When you visit a page that includes one or more trackers, it pops up a small, transient window within the browser reporting how many it blocked.
The Do Not Track functionality supplied with AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 and Avira Free AntiVirus (2014) is more flexible than Epic’s. With AVG and Avira, you can choose whether or not to block specific trackers, for example leaving social media and analytics unblocked while blocking ad trackers. Epic’s Do Not Track is an all-or-nothing proposition.
On the other hand, Epic totally blocks ads, which means some pages will load faster. Of course, if everyone blocked ads then some websites would fold for lack of ad revenues.
Glitches and Limitations
Unfortunately, these bookmarklets rely on cookies and on access to the referrer field, both of which are blocked by Epic. Alok Bhardwaj, the company’s CEO and founder, told me that Epic will soon support a small set of plug-ins including popular password managers, and that the designers are working on a solution for the bookmarklet problem.
In testing, I found that some websites simply didn’t work with Epic, or worked strangely. For example, when I tried to visit my favorite crossword-puzzle site via Epic’s proxy, it suddenly demanded a username and password. A toolbar button opens a menu that lets you disable specific privacy features, but the only way I could regain access to the crossword site was to stop using the proxy.
The search page does draw on major engines, but doesn’t support some standard search modifiers. For example, when I added “intitle:review” to a search, it asked if I perhaps intended “entitled:review.” Stranger still, when I entered new search terms after certain searches, it did nothing. I had to go back to the main search page to start a new search.
Worth a Try
If you routinely use InPrivate browsing in Internet Explorer, Incognito in Chrome, or Private browsing in Firefox, consider giving Epic Privacy Browser a try. With Epic, privacy isn’t an option; it’s the default. Yes, there are a few glitches; this is definitely a work in progress. But Epic Privacy Browser will definitely protect your online privacy.
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