How to secure your browser and control what websites have access to

Most of us spend a large part of our time navigating the intricate avenues of the web, and very often we do so without realising exactly what type of information about us websites can access when we visit their particular internet neighbourhood.

To protect your personal information and make every browsing experience one that is pleasant, tweak these settings in your browser.

If you’re using Google Chrome

One of the most popular web browsers out there allows you to take control of the type of information you leave behind as you meander through the internet.

To control what you share while browsing specific sites in Chrome, click on the icon next to the URL in the address bar – this will probably be a padlock icon, but it might also be an “i” symbol.

When clicking on it, a dropdown will appear; click on “Site settings”. This will take you to a page detailing a range of access controls, including whether a website has access to your microphone and camera, or whether it is allowed to bomb you with pop-up ads or videos that start playing automatically. These settings can be personalised according to your preferences, or you can simply reset permissions to their default state.

Clicking on the icon next to the URL will also give you the option to view the cookies that a specific website uses to recognise you and your preferences. These tiny bits of code allow websites on the internet to remember you and to build a record of your online history, including your search history (which is why you’re still seeing ads for that one thing you were looking to buy, but didn’t).

To specify what type of information is collected as cookies, you can click on the three little dots to the right of the address bar, then click on “Settings” and scroll down to click on “Advanced”.

Here you will see options to clear your browsing history and cookies (take note that doing so will sign you out of any websites you are logged into, meaning that you’ll have to sign in again when you next visit those sites) and to toggle a button which enables a “Do Not Track” request to accompany you as you browse, notifying websites that you don’t want tracking cookies from advertising or analytics networks to enable ad targeting or to collect data about your browsing habits.

If you’re using Mozilla Firefox

Just like in Chrome, you can access settings for specific websites by clicking on the icon to the left of the URL in the address bar. Click on the cog icon next to the “Permissions” heading – here you will be able to specify access to notifications, locations, camera, microphone, and a number of other things. Websites can be removed from the dialogue box that pops up, and can conveniently be tweaked one-by-one or all at once.

To accept or block cookies in Firefox, scroll up on the “Privacy and Security” screen, accessible by clicking on “Options” on the Firefox menu.

If you’re using Apple Safari

In the Safari browser, open the Safari menu and click on “Settings for This Website”. Let your mouse hover over the relevant option to access a drop-down menu to make changes. To adjust these settings for all your future browsing, click on “Preferences” in the Safari menu, then click on the “Websites” tab.

If you want to manage cookies in Safari, click on “Preferences”, switch to the “Privacy” tab. Clicking on “Prevent cross-site tracking” will block all third-party ccokies, and you are also able to stop websites from saving any cookies by clicking the “Block all cookies” checkbox.

Happy (and safe) browsing!

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