Online privacy can be confusing. What’s fingerprinting? Why are trackers bad? In this easy-to-read list you’ll find short definitions of essential privacy terms.
- Ad blocker
- Third-party ads are annoying. But they also go hand-in-hand with trackers, working together to secretly collect your browsing and search data. This data is then sold to third-party advertisers, leading to ad retargeting, privacy and security risk, slow-downs in page load, battery drain, mobile data burn, and more. Extension-based ad blockers bring their own set of risks. Brave’s ad-block feature—Brave Shields—is built right into the browser, and blocks third-party ads and trackers by default.
- AMP is a non-standard form of HTML developed and pushed by Google. AMP pages look like they’re coming from the original publisher’s site, but in fact are cached versions of these pages that live on Google’s servers. This makes AMP harmful to privacy, security, and the openness of the Web. AMP pages are often slower than the original publisher versions, too.
- When browsing the Web, anonymity means that a website can't distinguish you from other site visitors. This is related to, but distinct from, "pseudonymity" (which refers to a site being able to recognize that you visited previously, but not know you who you are individually).
- Big Tech
- Big tech generally refers to any large technology company that makes widely-used software and hardware.
- Bounce Tracking
- Bounce tracking (aka “redirect tracking”) is when a tracker can know you and / or your interests by inserting an intermediary link between pages you visit. For example, if you’re on dogs.com and you click a link to cats.com, you might briefly be taken to tracker.com first. The tracker could learn you like cats and dogs, and use this data to sell targeted ads. (Note this intermediate bounce to tracker.com will happen so quickly you won’t notice, unless you’re closely watching the address bar.)
- A browser (or Web browser) is an app for your computer, tablet, or smartphone that lets you look at and interact with websites. The browser “calls” the server on which a website is hosted, and then renders that site for you in an intelligible way. Note that a browser is different than a search engine.
- Cache (also known as “browser cache” or “Web cache”) is a temporary storage area on your device that holds copies of frequently accessed webpages, images, and other online content. Allowing your browser to store some data about previously visited websites prevents the need for future requests, and helps those sites / pages load faster the next time you visit.
- A client is the hardware or software that accesses a service on a server. Your phone, tablet, or computer—and in some cases the software on those devices, like your browser—will be considered a client.
- A cookie is a small piece of data that a website (the server) places on your device (the client). The exact meaning of cookie contents is specific to each website. In some cases these are benign, and required for the site or app to function (e.g. to know you put an item in a shopping cart). In other cases, cookies can be used to track your browsing activity, search history, and to follow you across the Web. Note that the term “cookie” is used in two different ways: to describe a specific way of setting values on browsers; and as a general term for all ways sites can store values on clients.
- Encryption is a cryptography term that means a message or data is indecipherable to outside observers. In Web browsing, this can mean data is unreadable as it moves across the Internet. If the data is also only readable by the site or app you want to view, it would be “end-to-end” (E2E) encrypted. Note that E2E encryption has very specific technical requirements, and most services that claim to offer it actually don’t. Also note that in some cases the parties on the website you’re viewing can see your message content (e.g. Facebook can see what you post in the WhatsApp client).
- A browser extension (usually just “extension”) is a mini-app that can be downloaded and added to a Web browser to augment it’s out-of-the-box functionality or to add a new feature. Common browser extensions include ad blockers, spell-checkers, dark-mode / visual altering tools, and crypto wallets. Extensions are usually made by third parties (i.e. not the browser), and not always policed or vetted for security / privacy risks.
- Filter lists
- A filter list is a list of ads, trackers, pop-ups, cookie consent notifications, or other website annoyances that people often prefer to block. Filter lists are commonly applied by ad blockers (either extension-based or browser-native options) to shield you from these annoyances.
- A fingerprint is a sufficient number of signals or data points that can be combined to uniquely identify you to a website. Browser fingerprinting works by collecting multiple things that are slightly unique about your browser or environment (e.g. your operating system, the size of your browser window, language setting, etc), and combining them into a unique, digital identification. As more browsers block cookies by default, Web trackers have shifted to fingerprinting-based tracking.
- First party
- With a website or app, first-party means the data or resources (which can include things like trackers, cookies, scripts, etc.) loaded directly from the service itself. First-party is contrasted with third-party, where some (or all) code, images, or ads load from a source other than the site or app you're using.
- First-party ad
- A first-party ad is an ad served directly from the website you're visiting, or the browser you're using to visit that site. With a third-party ad, by contrast, the ad comes from a different website than the one you're visiting. First-party ads are generally more secure and private, and present less risk of tracking or data collection.
- HTML (short for “HyperText Markup Language”) is a system of special notations that specify what a webpage should look like and how it should work. HTML is how webpages—including their text, images, tables, links, forms, and so on—are transmitted over the Internet to your device. HTML is the standard coding (or “markup”) language used to build pages that render in a Web browser.
- HTTPS is short for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure, a protocol for secure communication on the Web. HTTPS is an extension of the core HTTP standard, and generally protects data in transit between the server (where a website or app "lives") and the client (phone or computer) you're browsing from. Some browsers now automatically upgrade sites to HTTPS, or will warn you if HTTPS isn't available; sites where HTTPS is not available should be visited with caution.
- IP address
- An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical label that allows computers to talk to each other. Some IP addresses are public (meaning that other computers can connect and interact with them directly), while others are private (often because they're shared between many computers on the same network, like in a home office). Sometimes, your IP address can be used to identify and track you across sites and apps.
- An Internet service provider (ISP) can provide home or work access to the Web, along with things like domain name registration and Web hosting. For many home internet users, connecting to the Internet means all data must go through some sort of ISP (and this ISP can see all your traffic and online activity unless you take steps to prevent it). Some examples of ISPs include Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
- Malware is a synonym for malicious software that's designed to disrupt, damage, or steal information from a computer, server, network, or other computing device. Examples of malware include viruses, trojans, ransomware, and spyware. When browsing the Web, it’s important to take adequate steps to protect yourself from malware.
- Open source
- Open source is a classification for software that's published with publicly available source code so that anybody can inspect, use, copy, distribute, or enhance it. Open-source software is often developed in a collaborative manner, and considered a public good, free for anybody to use. The Brave Browser, Linux operating system, and OpenOffice are examples of open-source software.
- Phishing refers to sending fraudulent communications that appear authentic to trick users into submitting personal information or installing malware. Phishing often takes place via email, with the sender pretending to be a well known person or company. Phishing messages typically invoke a sense of urgency or panic, and compel readers to take immediate action—often clicking a link or navigating to a fake version of a website.
- In the context of computing, privacy refers to keeping personal, financial, and browsing data free from observation and not letting unauthorized parties access it. Protecting one's privacy when browsing the Web entails blocking trackers, blocking or partitioning third-party cookies, and blocking fingerprinting and other means of identifying a person and monitoring their online activity.
- Private (incognito) window
- A private window (or incognito window), is a browser window that forgets everything you did in it when you close it. Different browsers use different names for the same feature. Brave, Safari, and Firefox use “private window,” while Chrome uses “incognito window” and Edge uses “InPrivate window.” Note that this “forgetting” only refers to data stored on your device.
- Randomness is the quality of lacking organization or structure, or otherwise being unpredictable. In the context of digital security, randomness plays an important role in cryptography and encryption—often used to generate random strings of characters and numbers known as “keys.”
- With regard to online advertising, retargeting is when users of a site or app are contacted via ads or emails to revisit the site or app, often to complete a purchase, or otherwise complete the conversion process. An example of retargeting is receiving an ad for a product you left in your shopping cart on a site. Retargeting often relies on cookies installed on a user’s device to work effectively.
- Safe Browsing
- Safe Browsing is a service, run by Google, that catalogs fraudulent or malicious websites. It’s integrated into several major browsers—including Brave, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox—so that they can warn you if you’re about to visit such a site. Edge uses a similar (though slightly different) service that’s run by Microsoft.
- Search engine
- A search engine is a type of software that enables users to search for content on the Web. Search engines produce results in the form of links to Web pages, images, videos, and more. Most web browsers have address bars that can both navigate to specific URLs, and carry out Web searches.
- In computer systems, security refers to the protection of data and information from theft, damage, or disclosure. For example, HTTPS is a necessary (but not sufficient) way your security is protected on the web.
- A server is a device or software that performs services for other devices or programs, known as clients. Servers can be physical machines, virtual machines, or software that performs server-like functions. The client-server model is the traditional and most common method for deploying apps on the Web. In the new Web3 model, nodes take the place of servers, providing more distributed and decentralized architecture.
- Generally, storage refers to the process of housing digital data on a virtual or physical device, like a hard drive. It’s also common for websites to use “client-side storage,” where they store info on your device (often via cookies) that can be retrieved as needed. This is what makes it possible, for example, for you to revisit a website and see that the items you left in your shopping cart are still there.
- Surveillance economy
- Surveillance economy refers to the economic system where tech companies make money by tracking people, and collecting and selling user data. Data collection for the primary purpose of profit through advertising and marketing.
- Third party
- When visiting a website, third-party refers to the other websites and sources of code, images, and ads a website loads resources from to create the page you see. Contrast this with first-party, where the site will load resources directly from the site you're viewing. Users generally do not know which third-party resources are being loaded on a page, which can include things like trackers, cookies, scripts, and more.
- Third-party ad
- A third-party ad is a type of advertisement presented on a website that is delivered by someone who’s not the owner of the site itself (e.g. the content of the site comes from the owner, but the ads come from someone else). When you load the page, your device communicates with the intended website as well as a different ad server—and likely encountering their own trackers and cookies in the process.
- A tracker is a piece of technology that is inserted into the code of a website you visit in order to record your on-site activity. Trackers collect info like site visits, searches, and clicks as you browse.
A URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator) is a string of letters, numbers, and special characters that identifies a place on the Internet, such as a website, and provides a method for reaching it. When browsing the Web, URLs appear in the address bar of your browser, as with
https://www.brave.com/glossary. For this reason URLs are sometimes called “addresses.”
- A virtual private network (VPN) enables data to be sent over the Internet through an encrypted channel (or "tunnel") for extra privacy and security. VPNs can be used to remotely access private networks, or to shield personal info (like your IP address).
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