After the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, repealed last year both broadband privacy and net neutrality protections, and after details emerged about the tracking of both users and non-users by Facebook, many consumers have sought tools to regain their online privacy. One popular approach has been installing ad-blocking software with existing web browsers to both suppress online ads, and disable tracking mechanisms embedded in online advertisements and web sites.
What if a web browser came with ad-blocking software already built in? If that's what you seek, then the new Brave web browser is worth consideration. According to its website:
"Brave blocks ads and trackers by default so you browse faster and safer. You can add ad blocking extensions to your existing browser, but it’s complicated and they often conflict with one another because browser companies don't test them. Worse, the leading ad blockers still allow some ads and all trackers."
Other benefits of this new, open-source browser:
"Brave loads major news sites 2 to 8 times faster than Chrome and Safari on mobile. And Brave is 2 times faster than Chrome on desktop."
"... give cryptocurrency-like payment tokens to anyone using the ad-blocking web browser, a move that won't let you line your own pockets but that will make it easier to fund the websites you visit. Brave developed the Basic Attention Token (BAT) as an alternative to regular money for the payments that flow from advertiser to website publishers. Brave plans to use BAT more broadly, though, for example also sending a portion of advertising revenue to you if you're using Brave and letting you spend BAT for premium content like news articles that otherwise would be behind a subscription paywall.
Most of that is in the future, though. Today, Brave can send BAT to website publishers, YouTubers and Twitch videogame streamers, all of whom can convert that BAT into ordinary money once they're verified. You can buy BAT on your own, but Brave has given away millions of dollars' worth through a few promotions. The next phase of the plan, though, is just to automatically lavish BAT on anyone using Brave, so you won't have to fret that you missed a promotional giveaway... The BAT giveaway plan is an important new phase in Brave's effort to salvage what's good about advertising on the internet -- free access to useful or entertaining services like Facebook, Google search and YouTube -- without downsides like privacy invasion and the sorts of political manipulations that Facebook partner Cambridge Analytica tried to enable."
To summarize, Brave will use block-chain as a measurement tool; not as real money. Smart. Plus, Brave pursues a new business model where advertisers can still get paid, browser users get paid, and most importantly: consumers don't have to divulge massive amounts of sensitive, personal information in order to view content. (Facebook and Google executives: are you paying attention?) This seems like a far better balance of privacy versus tracking for advertising.
Skeptical? CNet also reported that Brave started:
"... in 2017 with an initial coin offering (ICO). Enough people were convinced of BAT's value that they funded Brave by buying $36 million worth of BAT in about 30 seconds. About 300 million of the tokens are reserved for a "user growth pool" to attract people to Brave and its BAT-based payment system for online ads. That's the source of the supply Brave plans to release to Brave users.
Today, more than 12,000 publishers have verified themselves for BAT payments, the company said. That includes more than 3,300 websites, 8,800 YouTube creators and nearly 350 people streaming video games on Amazon's Twitch site. Notable verified media sites include The Washington Post, the Guardian, and Dow Jones Media Group, a Dow Jones subsidiary that operates Barron's and MarketWatch."
Last week, Brave announced a partnership with Dow Jones Media Group where it:
"... will provide access to premium content to a limited number of users who download the Brave browser on a first-come, first-serve basis. The available content set features full access to Barrons.com or a premium MarketWatch newsletter..."
Plus, Brave and DuckDuckGo have collaborated to enable private search within the private tabs of the Brave browser. So, consumers can add the Brave browser to the list of optional tools for online privacy:
- Facebook.com users: disable the Facebook API platform on your Facebook accounts, use the new tools (e.g., see these step-by-step instructions) by Facebook to review and disable the apps with access to their data,
- Everyone: consider ad-blocking software (e.g., Adblock Plus, Ghostery), use the opt out-out mechanisms offered by the major data brokers, use the OptOutPrescreen.com site to stop pre-approved credit offers, use the DuckDuckGo search engine instead of other search engines that track you, and/or consider VPN software and services to stop spying by your internet service provider,
- Firefox web browser users: configure your browser for Private Browsing and install the new Facebook Container add-on specifically designed to prevent Facebook from tracking you,
- Other web browser users: several web browsers offer Incognito Mode, consider the Privacy Badger add-on, try the new DuckDuckGo Privacy browser, or install the DuckDuckGo browser extension to your existing web browser.
What are your opinions? If you use the Brave browser, share your experiences below.