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How to Optimize Opera for Maximum Privacy

Opera, like all popular web browsers, contains features that sacrifice privacy for convenience. Opera contains some features that send every website you visit to its servers, but also offers excellent, fine-grained control of cookies.

One notable omission from Opera is the “do-not-track” feature found in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. In Opera’s defense, most websites ignore the do-not-track request and track you anyway.

Opera Turbo

Opera Turbo, a feature from Opera’s mobile browsers, uses Opera’s proxy servers to speed up your browsing on slow connections. The proxy servers compress the web pages before you receive them, saving you download time. Encrypted connections to your bank and other secure sites aren’t proxied.

This can help a lot on slower connections, but it’s unnecessary on fast connections. You can disable Opera Turbo to prevent your browsing activity from going through Opera’s servers.

First, open Opera’s Preferences window under Settings in the Opera menu.

Click over to the Webpages tab and you’ll see the Opera Turbo settings near the top of the window.

You can select Off from the drop-down menu or click Details to see more information.

Search Suggestions

Like other browsers, Opera sends each keystroke you type into the search box to your default search engine. The search engine responds with suggestions based on what you’re typing.

This only transmits queries you type into the search box — which you’ll probably send to your default search engine anyway — but you can disable this feature by unchecking the Enable Search Suggestions check box on the Search tab.

Cookies

Cookies are often used by advertisers to track you online, but websites also use cookies for legitimate purposes, such as saving your login state and website preferences.

Click over to the Advanced tab and click Cookies in the sidebar to view your cookie settings. Select the “Accept Cookies Only From the Site I Visit” option to reject third-party cookies, which are often used by advertisers. Most websites will work properly if you select this option, but you can change it back to “Accept Cookies” if you encounter a problem.

The “Delete New Cookies When Exiting Opera” check box allows you to keep cookies enabled so websits will work properly, but discards them each time you exit Opera so you can’t be tracked. The downside is that you’ll have to log back in to each website you use when you open Opera — unless you use the Manage Cookies dialog to save these cookies between browser sessions.

If you want to enable this option, you should also click Manage Cookies and clear away the cookies you don’t need. Any cookies already in here will be preserved, so you can save your How-To Geek cookies if you want to stay logged into How-To Geek.

Fraud and Malware Protection

Opera’s Fraud and Malware Protection feature, enabled by default, helps protect you online by displaying a warning message when you access a fraudulent website or one that contains malware.

To provide this feature, Opera sends the domain name of each website you visit to Opera’s servers. Opera promises that this data is anatomized and they don’t use it to track you. Other popular web browsers compare most websites you visit against a local list of known-bad websites, so Opera’s architecture isn’t ideal for privacy.

This feature does help protect you, but you can disable it if you’re not comfortable with Opera transmitting this information. Just uncheck the “Enable Fraud and Malware Protection” check box on the Security pane.

Private Browsing

Opera’s private-browsing feature prevents Opera from saving your browsing history, cookies and other private information locally. You can open a tab in private-browsing mode by clicking the Opera menu, pointing to Tabs and Windows and selecting New Private Tab. Unfortunately, you can’t set Opera to always open tabs in this mode.


Wondering about Opera Link, Opera’s browser-sync feature? Opera Link encrypts your browser data with your password before it’s sent to Opera’s servers, so Opera can’t inspect the data.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/30/12

Comments (7)

  1. g..

    All in all a nice article. As long-time Opera user I like to add the following:

    - You can remove the search box completely by right clicking it “Customize->Remove from toolbar”. Then you enter your searches simply into the address field, Opera will open automatically your default search engine (or you use a keyword to search with a specified search engine).

    - To open tabs always in private mode simply open a “New Private Window” instead of a “New Private Tab”. All tabs opened in that window are then in private mode.

    /g..

  2. kelltic

    I’ve been using Opera since FF took away the status bar and went off on that fast-track crap trail. I like Opera a lot. One issue I have is with Opera Turbo. For me, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. It slows everything down, rather than speeding it up, so I’ve disabled it.

  3. Chris Hoffman

    Thanks for the comments, g. New Private Window will definitely open all tabs privately in teh window, but when you re-open Opera you’ll have to open a new private window again.

    @Kelelltic

    Unless you have dial-up, the proxy and compression process is just going to slow things down.

  4. Merser

    Also Preferences (CTRL+F12) – Advanced – Network. Uncheck “Send refferer information”. Refferer will not be shared.

  5. Chris Hoffman

    Thanks Merser, that’s also something you can do. It’ll prevent websites from seeing the previous webpage you were on (known as the referrer).

    I decided not to mention this in the article because it can be problematic — some websites won’t work properly if you disable this, so turn it back on if you encounter a problem.

  6. Joe

    And while you’re at it, don’t forget your tin foil hat. You wouldn’t want those pesky search engines reading your thoughts!

  7. Chris Hoffman

    Hey Joe,

    I actually don’t have much of a problem with most these features, personally (the fraud protection shouldn’t ping Opera’s servers all the time, though), but I feel readers should know what their browsers are doing and make informed decisions. There’s a reason these options are present; I’m just trying to demystify them.

    For instance, if you saw my Internet Explorer version of this article, did you know that Internet Explorer has a feature that sends your entire browsing history to Microsoft so they can analyze it? I didn’t, and I don’t think most readers did either.

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