One of the things many people look for in a browser is how it protects their privacy from all the different trackers hidden on many of the sites out there. Microsoft Edge, the Chromium-based browser built into current versions of Windows, also has its fair share of protections — it even adds its own VPN into the mix. 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 track your browsing activity).
Here you will find instructions to change your settings, see which trackers are stored in your browser and to delete cookies. We’ll also discuss how Edge handles fingerprinting, another tracking method that identifies users by collecting details about their system configuration.
Dealing with trackers
Edge blocks trackers by default with one of three different levels of protection. Balanced, which is active upon installation, will block some third-party trackers along with any trackers marked as ‘malicious’. This mode takes into account sites you visit frequently and the fact that an organization can own multiple sites; it lowers tracking prevention for organizations you interact with on a regular basis. Base offers more relaxed control; it still blocks trackers, but only those that Microsoft describes as “malicious.” You can also switch to Strictthat blocks most third-party trackers on various sites.
To change your protection level:
- Click on the three dots in the top right corner of your browser window and go to Settings† Select Privacy, Search and Services from the left menu.
- Make sure that Follow prevention is enabled, then select which level you want.
Adjust your tracking settings
While Edge gives you 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, Search and Services page, find the Blocked trackers link just below the three tracking prevention modes. Click that to see all the trackers that Edge has blocked.
- Below the Blocked trackers link is the Exceptions link, where you can specify all sites where you want to disable tracking prevention.
When you’re on a site, you can see how effective your tracking prevention is by clicking the lock icon to the left of the top address field. The dropdown allows you to view the associated cookies and site permissions, allow or disable pop-ups, adjust the tracking permissions for that site, and see which trackers have been blocked.
Clean up your cookies
Conveniently, Edge can delete various types of data every time you close it, including browsing history, passwords, and cookies.
- Go back to Settings > Privacy, Search & Services and scroll down to Delete browsing history†
- Click the arrow next to Choose what to clear every time you close the browser†
- Enable one of the data categories that you want to clear every time you exit Edge. If you select: Cookies and other site datayou can also choose all the sites whose cookies you want to keep by clicking on the Add knob.
You can also manually delete your cookies and other data at any time:
- On the Privacy, Search and Services PageSearch Clear browsing data nowand click the button labeled Choose what you want to delete† This opens a smaller window with several options.
- Select the type of data you want to delete.
- You can also select a time period in which you want 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 clear your data if you have been using outdated websites in Internet Explorer mode. You are also warned that erasing your data will erase it on all synced devices. (But you can only sign out of your Microsoft account on that particular computer to clear it.)
- Finished? Click It’s clear 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 that page, you’ll see a number of features that you can enable or disable. They include Microsoft Defender SmartScreen, which can help protect against malicious sites and, if you enable it, block downloads of potentially dangerous apps. There is also a feature that prevents you from accidentally going to a problematic site because of a typo.
Fingerprints and Ad Blocking
According to Microsoft, the three tracking prevention modes will help protect against the type of personalization that leads to fingerprints.
Edge does not block ads natively, but you can download ad blocking extensions. Since the browser is now based on Chromium, many Chrome extensions (as well as extensions from the Microsoft Store) work with this latest version of Edge, a clear advantage.
Update May 10, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was originally published on February 13, 2020 and has been updated to reflect changes to the operating system and the Edge app.