- 1 Key Features
- 2 Ethical Considerations
- 3 Opposition
- 4 References
Ad and Tracker Blocking
On any given tab, the browser has an option to enable and disable a display showing how many items have been blocked or modified on that particular page, such as cross-site trackers, connections upgraded to HTTPS, and scripts blocked. The Brave Browser does not serve individual user browsing data on its servers, unlike most other browsers; instead, all user data is aggregated before being returned to Brave's servers. The ads and trackers that are blocked by default can also be customized by the user at any time.  However, user browsing data is still saved on users' local devices in order to ensure that ads that they may opt-in to see are still relevant. Brave also advertises that the fact that all ads are blocked, enabling faster browsing times for the user.
Basic Attention Token (BAT)
The Basic Attention Token (BAT) is an Ethereum-based token that can be traded on a wallet embedded in the browser itself. BAT is the unit of exchange used for browser features such as Brave Rewards. BAT had its initial coin offering (ICO) on May 31st, 2017. In under 30 seconds, 1,000,000,000 BAT were sold for a total of 156,250 Ethereum. BAT improves the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new unit of exchange between publishers, advertisers, and users. BAT allows users to have better control over the ads they see online: users can block ads, pay to see different ads, or view ads and earn BAT tokens in exchange. Advertisers also benefit from this model by achieving higher returns on advertising investment. This is delivered through better ad targeting (based on local user data) and reduced fraud.
Brave Rewards has a two-pronged benefit: it allows users to support their favorite content creators, and it allows users to earn money. For the former, Brave allows users to send their favorite content creators (YouTubers, Twitter users, blog owners, etc.) BAT, which can be converted to cash. This practice is known as tipping. Users can choose to either set up recurring payments or make a one-time payment. For the latter benefit, users can choose to earn money by opting in to view ads. Rather than traditional banner ads, Brave displays its ads as a push notification that users can choose to interact with. The aim of this ad format is to create a more engaging ad experience that benefits all parties involved.
Currently, Brave has over 735,000 registered content creators with many notable names such as Philip DeFranco, The Washington Post, wikiHow, XXL, Vice, and The Guardian to name a few. In the current e-commerce system, digital content creators receive an estimated half of their revenue due to users who use ad-blocks. In addition, many digital ad platforms are monopolized by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Thus, Brave Rewards is highly appealing to content creators as it attempts to equalize systemically disproportionate streams of revenue.
IPFS is the protocol that Brave uses instead of HTTP, which is what most browsers use. IPFS is known as a peer-to-peer protocol. This is because it uses distributed nodes near the user to send data. This can result in faster web browsing in certain areas. In contrast, HTTP has a centralized server that transmits data to users. This can be slow in some areas if the distance from the user to the server is far.
- Tor integration for anonymous browsing by concealing user location and usage information
- Auto-suggesting search terms and searching from the address bar
- Option to use DuckDuckGo for private window search
- Built-in password manager
- Fingerprinting prevention, cookie control, and HTTPS upgrading
- Support for most Chrome extensions
Data privacy while browsing online is a point of contention regarding Internet privacy in the modern day. Brave offers a robust feature list on metrics related to online privacy and data ethics. By keeping all data local and privatized, Brave does not monetize user data the way many browsers do. Instead, its primary revenue driver is its usage of BAT. This business model allows them to monetize browsing while still returning 70% of revenue to Brave users themselves. This allows for incentive alignment with users who are focused on privacy and Brave's monetization strategy and business model.
Online Advertising Ecosystem
The main concern with Brave's lack of individualized user collection is whether or not users would see relevant ads if they chose to opt-in to see ads in order to earn BAT. Although Brave does not collect individualized user data, it still practices machine learning on aggregated and anonymized data to ensure that ads users see are relevant for them. By approaching advertising this way, Brave addresses common ethical concerns of monetization user behavior data, while still employing machine learning as an effective tool to display relevant ads. By choosing to implement ads in-app instead of using a third-party ad service, Brave Browser also eliminates the 3rd party ad broker and allows for revenue to be returned to the users.
User Expectations of Privacy
Users frequently have misconceptions about online privacy and how private browser modes work. These include overestimating the function of private browser modes, such as assuming protection against ISP tracking of browsing history. A study has suggested this causes a negative impact on user privacy when using the Brave Browser, as users may engage differently when they expect a certain degree of anonymity. This study also suggested that the new tab disclosure, which attempts to explain the difference between Brave’s two modes, is not effective at educating users on the impact on browsing privacy.
Failure of Privacy Promise
Another time that Brave Browser did not uphold their promises on privacy was their addition to auto-completing links to redirect users to affiliate links, “presumably for profit.” One user reported that when typing in “binance.us” to Brave Browser, it was auto-completed with "binance.us/en?ref=35089877." While the auto-completing of this link actually sent users to the right place, this incident rubbed users the wrong way. Because Brave Browser gives users the option to keep or remove ads, users were not pleased that Brave Browser was auto-completing links without notifying users that they were doing so.
A third incident that Brave Browser had was because of their Tor browsing mode. Tor’s main objective is to conceal a user’s location when browsing online. Brave Browser had a bug that caused the website being visited to send a DNS query to your local device, which makes it possible for others to find your location. This bug was able to be verified by using an application, Wireshark, to analyze DNS traffic.
Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, also censured Brave’s advertising approach, charging the Brave Browser with being the product of dogmatic, self-righteous, hypocritical, wealthy sentiments and describing Brave’s advertisement policy as an affected front put on in order to better conceal “The Big Lie” hidden underneath the business’ true intentions.