One of the things that many people look for in a browser is how it protects their privacy against all the various trackers that are hidden in many of the websites. Microsoft Edge, the Chromium-based browser that is 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 keep track of your browsing activity).
Here are instructions on how to change your settings, see which trackers are stored in your browser, and remove any cookies. We also discuss how Edge handles fingerprinting, another method of tracking that identifies users by collecting details about their system configuration.
Edge blocks trackers by default using one of three different levels of protection. Balanced, which is active after installation, blocks some third-party trackers along with some trackers indicated as “malicious”. This mode takes into account websites that you visit frequently and the fact that an organization may own several websites; it lowers tracking prevention for organizations with which you regularly collaborate. Base offers looser control; it still blocks trackers but only those Microsoft describes as “malicious.” You can also switch to Strictwhich blocks most third-party trackers through websites.
To change your protection level:
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner of your browser window and go to Settings. Choose Privacy, search and services from the left menu.
- Confirm Track prevention is turned 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 websites.
- On the Privacy, search and services page, search the Blocked trackers link immediately below the three track prevention regimes. Click this to see all the trackers Edge has blocked.
- Under the Blocked trackers link is the Exceptions link where you can specify any sites where you want to track prevention disabled.
When you’re on the web, you can see how effective your trace prevention is by clicking on the key symbol to the left of the upper address field. The checkbox allows you to view the related cookies and site permissions, enable or disable popups, adjust the tracking permissions for that 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.
- Return to Settings> Privacy, search, and services and scroll down to Empty browsing data.
- Click the arrow next to it Select what to delete each time you close the browser.
- Turn on any of the data categories you’d like to be deleted every time you exit Edge. If you choose Cookies and other website dataYou can also select any websites whose cookies you want to keep by clicking on Add button.
You can also manually delete your cookies and other data at any time:
- On the Privacy, search and services pageSearch Delete browsing data nowand click the tagged button Choose what to clear. This will open a smaller window with several options.
- Select the type of data you want to delete.
- You can also select a time period in which to delete that data: the last hour; the last 24 hours; the last seven days; the last four weeks; or always.
- There is also a link to delete your data if you have used legacy websites Internet Explorer mode. You are also warned that emptying your data will delete it across all synced devices. (But you can log out of your Microsoft account to delete it only on that specific computer.)
- Ready? Click Explain now.
There are other privacy features on the Privacy, search and services page, including options to send “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’ll see some features you can turn on or off. They include Microsoft Defender SmartScreen, which can help protect against malicious websites and, if you turn it on, block downloads of potentially harmful programs. There is also a feature that will prevent you from accidentally going to a problematic website due to a typo.
Fingerprinting and ad placement
According to Microsoftthe three tracking prevention modes will help protect against the kind of personalization that leads to fingerprinting.
Edge doesn’t block ads natively, but you can download ad block extensions. Since 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 clear advantage.
Update May 10, 2022, 10:30 ET: This article was originally published on February 13, 2020 and has been updated to reflect changes in the OS and the Edge app.