Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser has tools to protect your privacy
One of the things that many people look for in a browser is how well it protects their privacy against all the different trackers that are hidden in many sites. Microsoft Edge, the Chromium-based browser built into current versions of Windows, also has its share of protections — it even adds its own VPN to the mix. Edge includes tools to block both first-party cookies (used to keep you logged in or remember items in your shopping cart) and third-party tracking cookies (used to track your browsing activity).
Here are instructions on how to change your settings, see what trackers are stored on your browser, and delete all cookies. We also cover how Edge handles fingerprinting, another tracking method that identifies users by collecting details about their system configuration.
Dealing with trackers
Edge blocks trackers by default using one of three different levels of protection. Balance, which is active upon installation, blocks certain third-party trackers as well as all trackers designated as “malicious”. This mode takes into account sites that you visit frequently and the fact that an organization may have multiple sites; this reduces tracking prevention for organizations you regularly interact with. Basic offers more relaxed control; it still blocks trackers, but only those that Microsoft describes as “malicious.” You can also switch to strictwhich blocks most third-party trackers on sites.
To change your protection level:
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner of your browser window and navigate to Settings. To select Privacy, Research and Services in the left menu.
- Make sure Tracking Prevention is enabled, then select the desired level.
Adjust your tracking settings
While Edge gives you the three easy-to-choose tracking modes, you can also drill down to see which trackers are blocked and make exceptions for specific sites.
- On the Privacy, Research and Services page, find the Blocked trackers link just below the three tracking prevention modes. Click on it to see all trackers blocked by Edge.
- Under the Blocked trackers the link is the Exceptions link, where you can specify all the sites on which you want to disable tracking prevention.
When you are on a site, you can see the effectiveness of your tracking prevention by clicking on the padlock symbol on the left side of the top address field. The drop-down list lets you view cookies and associated site permissions, allow or disable pop-ups, change tracking permissions for this site, and see which trackers have been blocked.
Clean your cookies
Conveniently, Edge can delete several types of data each time you close it, including browsing history, passwords, and cookies.
- Come back to Settings > Privacy, Search & Services and scroll to Clear browsing data.
- Click the arrow next to Choose what to clear every time you close the browser.
- Enable one of the categories of data that you want to clear every time you leave Edge. If you select Cookies and other site datayou can also choose the sites whose cookies you want to keep by clicking on the Add button.
You can also manually erase your cookies and other data at any time:
- On the Privacy, Research and Services Pagelook for Clear browsing data nowand click on the button labeled Choose what to erase. This will open a smaller window with several options.
- Select the type of data you want to delete.
- You can also select a time range in which to delete this data: the last hour; the last 24 hours; the last seven days; the last four weeks; or all the time.
- There is also a link to clear your data if you used legacy websites in Internet Explorer Mode. You are also warned that deleting your data will erase it on all synced devices. (But you can sign out of your Microsoft account to erase it only on that specific computer.)
- Ready? Click on clear now.
There are other privacy features on the Privacy, Research and Services page, including options for sending “Do Not Track” requests. (Although the usefulness of such a request may be questionable.)
If you scroll down to the Security section of this page, you will see a number of features that you can enable or disable. They include Microsoft Defender SmartScreen, which can help protect against malicious sites and, if you enable it, will block downloads of potentially dangerous apps. There is also a feature that will prevent you from accidentally accessing a problematic site due to a typing error.
Fingerprinting and ad blocking
According to Microsoftthe three tracking prevention modes will help protect against the kind of personalization that leads to fingerprinting.
Edge does not block ads natively, but you can download ad blocking extensions. Since the browser is now Chromium-based, many Chrome extensions (as well as extensions from the Microsoft Store) will work with this latest version of Edge, a definite plus.
Updated May 10, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was originally published on February 13, 2020 and has been updated to reflect changes to the operating system and Edge app.