The easiest way to use the Tor digital anonymity service through the Tor browser. You download and use it like a regular browser, and it covers your digital footprints as you go, making it very difficult for anyone to keep track of your online activities. In addition, the Tor Browser is designed with anti-surveillance measures that block trackers and hinder device fingerprinting methods. But you may not always want to use the Tor browser, as it has relatively slow page load times and can be a bit cumbersome. But launched today, a new browser developed by the Tor Project’s user experience and application teams offers the same focus on privacy, built with a different infrastructure to integrate VPN support instead of Tor.
The tool, known as the Mullvad Browser, is the result of a collaboration between the Tor Project and VPN maker Mullvad. The free, open source browser it is now available for download. The VPN room is Busy and has some problematic playersbut Mullvad has consistently is a well-regarded and trusted VPN because it is open source, does not monetize user data, and offers independent third-party audits of its systems and infrastructure. Nevertheless, the Mullvad browser can be used with any VPN you trust or can be used without a VPN as just another privacy-focused browser.
“We are not here to compete and gain market share for browsers; we are here because our mission is to advance human rights through technology,” said Isabela Bagueros, executive director of the Tor project. “So we want to provide alternatives for people who want to get around privacy and censorship.”
Both the Tor network and virtual private networks encrypt your web traffic and tunnel it through an intermediary, but Tor is focused on the anonymity that comes from a specific scheme of sending your traffic through a series of “hops,” or special servers. VPNs, on the other hand, don’t put much effort into anonymizing your traffic and instead focus on providing privacy protection by creating a system where only you and the VPN provider can see your web activity. As a result, VPNs have a complicated reputation for being only as private as the VPN provider is trustworthy. However, depending on your use case and circumstances, they can be a valuable resource.
“Mulvad’s mission is to make mass surveillance impractical, and a VPN alone is not enough to achieve online privacy – you also need a privacy-focused web browser,” said Jan Jonsson, CEO of Mullvad. “We wanted to provide a privacy-focused browser that is just as good as the Tor browser, but for those who want to connect to the internet through a VPN instead of the Tor network. The partnership is all about providing people with more privacy alternatives.”
The Tor Project and Mullvad both said of each other that they were attracted to the collaboration due to each other’s track record on human rights and digital privacy initiatives. And Mullvad is a longtime financial supporter of the Tor Project, a non-profit organization.
There are other well-known privacy browsers, like Brave, and they can also be used with a VPN or even have built-in VPN capabilities. But the Tor Project says their years of experience with pioneering anti-tracking techniques such as cookie isolation and other anti-surveillance technologies mean that Mullvad Browser is launching with very high quality. Tor Project’s Bagueros adds that during the development of Mullvad Browser, the team made some discoveries and improvements that have now been incorporated back into the Tor Browser.
“Maybe this new browser will reach an audience that we’re not reaching now,” says Bagueros. “Multiple alternatives can coexist and support each other. We are building alternatives in collaboration, in solidarity with other organizations, because this is a big fight. We are up against big players, so we have to work together.”