You would be far from the first to be concerned by the crescendo of news over the last two years about how your privacy and data has been treated with disdain by Facebook and Google. To take the most glaring example, Cambridge Analytica boasted that in the 2016 general election it had 5,000 pieces of data on every single adult in the United States — enough to predict exactly how each would vote.
But Cambridge Analytica is a a symptom of the problem, not its cause.
The unfathomable amount of data that we’ve provided Big Tech, used by malicious actors to manipulate and divide, hasn’t vanished. Why would it? Facebook and Google have built their businesses around the harvesting and monetizing of your information.
At a time when the great Silicon Valley companies have rushed to monopolize this new data economy, it’s extremely timely to see a new tool against them enter the scene. A new competitor, Brave, promotes a browser that both promises and delivers on privacy and data security. By default, the Brave Browser blocks ads, cookies and trackers. Brave prioritizes secure connections (think HTTPS instead of HTTP) and promises to block all phishing and malware.
If you care about your privacy and the security of your data, Brave boasts enough features to make you feel a bit more comfortable on the web.
For the morbidly curious, Brave also offers a feature that lets you view the tracking devices that each website tries to attach to you, in real time. After only a cursory scroll through Google, I noticed that Brave blocked dozens of different cross-site trackers within seconds, some from Google and YouTube but others from indecipherable locations in the deep web. Brave claims that blocking all these tracking scripts means that its browser loads faster than alternatives and saves users money — as smartphones no longer have to chew through data by processing “invisible” tracking scripts.
This is not hard to believe when you directly compare Brave directly with the existing alternatives: take a look at the two photos below of CoinMarketCap. The first is captured with Brave, and the second with Chrome. It is not hard to see why the former uses less data and loads faster (notwithstanding the obvious fact that it also makes for a better viewing experience).
This is not just a fancy new browser. Brave’s array of privacy and security features speaks to a fundamentally different approach to the internet compared to Google and Facebook. Brave pointedly says “we’re not in the personal data business,” and that its servers have no access at all to browsing data. This is an incredibly ambitious vision, that is worth considering supporting on the merits alone.
Brave’s defence of your privacy has an even more extraordinary dimension: replacing the entire model of digital advertising with a new “attention economy” where you are tangibly rewarded for opting into ads. Brave proposes that 70% of the revenue from digital ads be distributed directly to the user in the form of the “Basic Attention Token,” a type of cryptocurrency. While you will be able to withdraw the token as cash, Brave will instead nudge you into distributing your tokens among the online publishers where you have spent the most time. You will have control, in other words, over “donating” your tokens to the websites that you believe deserve them.
Consider this: right now, your data is being harvested without your knowledge and traded between technology companies and advertisers with the intent of selling things to you via targeted ads. Brave would prefer a world with very few ads, where advertisers cannot target you on the basis of your personal data, and where most of the revenue from the ad flows back to you. These two ideas about how the internet should work are poles apart.
On the one hand, if this new direction for the internet appeals, you should consider switching to Brave and supporting a movement against Facebook and Google online. On the other hand, if you simply want the most effective browser and best viewing experience, you should also consider switching to Brave. The team has both bases covered, and their eye on the long term.