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How to use Edge’s tools to protect your privacy while browsing

The latest Chromium-based version offers more protection than its predecessors

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Version 80 of Microsoft’s Edge browser, now based on the Chromium source code, launched on January 15th, and with it came an increased focus on privacy.

Edge includes tools to block both first-party cookies (used to keep you logged in or remember the items in your shopping cart) and third-party tracking cookies (used to keep track of your browsing activity). Below are instructions on how to change your settings, see what trackers are stored on your browser, and delete any cookies. We also address how Edge deals with fingerprinting, another method of tracking which identifies users by collecting details about their system configuration.

Deal with trackers

The new version of Edge blocks trackers by default using one of three different levels of protection. “Balanced,” which is active upon installation, blocks some third-party trackers along with any trackers designated as “malicious.” This mode takes into account sites you visit frequently and the fact that an organization may own several sites; it lowers tracking prevention for organizations you engage with regularly. “Basic” offers more relaxed control; it still blocks trackers, but only those Microsoft describes as “malicious.” You can also switch to “Strict,” which blocks most third-party trackers across sites.

To change your level of protection:

  • Click on the three dots in the top right corner of your browser window and go to “Settings,” then “Privacy and Services.”
  • Make sure “Tracking prevention” is switched on, and then select which level you want.

Adjust your tracking settings

While Edge provides you with the three easy-to-choose tracking modes, you can also dive deeper to see which trackers are blocked, and make exceptions for specific sites.

  • On the “Privacy and Services” page, look for the “Blocked trackers” link just beneath the three tracking prevention modes. Here, you can see all of the trackers Edge has blocked.
  • Beneath that is the “Exceptions” link, where you can specify any sites where you want tracking prevention turned off.

When you’re at a site, you can see an accounting of how effective your tracking prevention is by clicking on the lock symbol on the left side of the top address field. The drop-down box allows you to view the associated cookies and site permissions, allow or disable pop-ups, tweak the tracking permissions for that site, and see what trackers have been blocked.

Clean up your cookies

Conveniently, Edge can delete several types of data each time you close it, including browsing history, passwords, and cookies.

  • Go to the “Clear browsing data” section of “Privacy and Service” (which can be found under the aforementioned tracking prevention levels).
  • Click the arrow next to “Choose what to clear every time you close the browser.”
  • Toggle on any of the data categories you’d like to be cleared each time you exit Edge.
Clear browsing data on close in Edge

You can also manually clear your cookies and other data at any point:

  • Next to “Clear browsing data now,” click on the button labeled “Choose what to clear.” This will open up a smaller window with several options.
  • Select the box for “Cookies and other site data” or any other type of data you want to delete.
  • Click “Clear now.”

There are also other privacy features on the “Privacy and Services” page, including options to send a “Do Not Track” request (although the usefulness of such a request can be questionable) and to choose your search engine.

Clear browsing data in Edge

Fingerprinting and ad blocking

According to Microsoft, the three tracking prevention modes (especially the Strict mode) will help protect against the type of personalization that leads to fingerprinting.

Edge does not block ads natively, but you can download ad-blocking extensions. Because the browser is now based on Chromium, many Chrome extensions (as well as extensions from the Microsoft Store) will work with this latest version of Edge, a distinct advantage.

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