• Microsoft released a revamped Edge browser last month as it looks to take some users away from Google Chrome.
  • Early benchmarks of Microsoft Edge found the new browser was quite impressive with respect to overall performance.
  • A new security study, however, finds that Microsoft Edge may have some glaring privacy issues.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

In a testament to how fast the landscape in technology can shift, there was a time — though it feels like ancient history now — when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the most popular web browser in the world. Internet Explorer, however, would soon see its share of the market shrink drastically as Google Chrome — which was released in 2008 — started to pick up steam.

Fast forward to 2020 and Google’s Chrome browser is without question the leading web browser. As of last month, Chrome held a 67% browser market share. Meanwhile, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge have 9%, 7.4%, and 5.6% of the browser market, respectively.

While you can make a strong case that no one browser will be able to dethrone Google Chrome, Microsoft last month released a totally redesigned Edge browser for both the Mac and PC. Notably, the new Edge browser is based on Chromium, which happens to be the open-source code base Google Chrome is built on.

Based on early testing, Microsoft’s new Edge browser appears to be the real deal with respect to performance. Indeed, the recent release of Microsoft Edge prompted some to wonder if Microsoft might actually be able to steal some users away from Chrome.

Now if you’ve been curious about taking Microsoft Edge for a test spin, it’s worth noting that the browser may have its share of privacy issues. In short, you might want to hold off on downloading Microsoft Edge until you take a closer look at a study put together by Douglas J Leith from the School of Computer Science & Statistics at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Leith ran a series of security tests involving Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari browser, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser.

The study reads in part:

From a privacy perspective Microsoft Edge and Yandex are much more worrisome than the other browsers studied. Both send identifiers that are linked to the device hardware and so persist across fresh browser installs and can also be used to link different apps running on the same device. Edge sends the hardware UUID of the device to Microsoft, a strong and enduring identifier than cannot be easily changed or deleted. Similarly, Yandex transmits a hash of the hardware serial number and MAC address to back end servers. As far as we can tell this behaviour cannot be disabled by users. In addition to the search autocomplete functionality (which can be disabled by users) that shares details of web pages visited, both transmit web page information to servers that appear unrelated to search autocomplete.

The study further states:

At the Edge welcome page the URL http://leith.ie/nothingtosee.html was pasted into the browser top bar. Even this simple action has a number of unwanted consequences:

1) Before navigating to http://leith.ie/nothingtosee.html Edge first transmits the URL to http://www.bing.com (this is a call to the Bing autocomplete API, and so shares user browsing history with the Bing service of Microsoft). Edge also contacts vortex.data.microsoft.com (which transmits the cookie noted above)

2) After navigating to http://leith.ie/nothingtosee.html Edge then transmits the URL to nav.smartscreen.microsoft.com/, sharing user browsing history with a second Microsoft server.

Edge certainly has a lot to offer, but make sure you’re aware of the privacy issues before you dive in.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.