What is WebRTC and how to disable it

In today's digital era, web applications and online services are vital to daily life, making the security of personal data a paramount concern. Users increasingly question what information they share and how it's stored by online services. Heightened public anxiety over online security has led to the creation of applications aimed at enhancing internet anonymity and privacy. 
However, some developments, such as WebRTC technology, can transmit user data to third parties, often without the user's awareness, posing a risk to personal and payment information. To safeguard against data leaks, it's advisable to disable this mechanism.

What is WebRTC

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) consists of API packages that enable browsers and interactive add-ons to conduct voice, video, and data communications directly between devices via the Internet, bypassing the need for third-party plugins and applications. This technology facilitates real-time web communications, widely used for audio calls and video conferences, where immediate transmission of web audio, video, and data is crucial.
Key features and benefits of WebRTC include:

  • Browser integration for real-time video chats and voice messages, supported by most modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. Its optimization for low latency makes it ideal for voice and video transmission over IP, suitable for streaming and group communication.
  • Compatibility with various devices, including desktops, mobile devices, and built-in cameras and microphones. The technology adapts to different network conditions, optimizing data streams for the best quality under limited bandwidth.
  • Default encryption of all connections using protocols like SRTP for media streams and Datagram TLS for secure connections.
  • The inclusion of an Interactive Connectivity Establishment mechanism helps circumvent network restrictions like NAT and firewalls, ensuring stable device connections.
  • Integrated audio and video compression codecs, such as Opus and VP9, offer high-quality communication at low bandwidths. Additionally, the software facilitates file transfers, screen sharing, and application sharing, and can be used in developing interactive IoT applications.

Understanding WebRTC's role reveals that disabling it in your browser can have significant drawbacks. Without it, you'll face challenges in making web-based calls to colleagues or friends, recording voices, and transcribing audio. Additionally, disabling WebRTC might lead to difficulties in transferring files or messages over global or local networks. If you still choose to disable WebRTC, follow the guide below for different internet browsers.
It's important to note that Web Real-Time Communication is an integrated technology without direct disable options in operating systems like Windows, macOS, or Android. Its deactivation must be done within the browser itself.
For those seeking to maintain privacy while keeping WebRTC enabled, consider using a VPN or a proxy server. These tools mask your IP address and reroute traffic through a remote server, concealing your real IP from websites and applications utilizing WebRTC.

Disabling WebRTC in Google Chrome

  1. Open Chrome using a taskbar shortcut or an .exe file. Once open, type "chrome://flags/" in the address bar to access the browser's advanced configuring panel.
  2. In older Chrome versions, locate the "WebRTC Stun origin header" option and select "Disabled" to deactivate it. For newer Chrome versions, the utility has more features. To find WebRTC-related options, press Ctrl+F and type “WebRTC” in the Chrome search bar.
  3. Each WebRTC-related option offers three settings: Default (enabled), Enabled, and Disabled. Choose "Disabled" to turn off WebRTC. In all other instances, it's advisable to reset settings to default, allowing the browser to automatically determine the timing and mode for activating the technology based on user requests.

After adjusting the settings, they are saved automatically. Restart the browser to apply the new settings. In newer Chrome versions, you can separately disable audio and video codecs, so adjust these settings according to your needs.

How to disable WebRTC in Safari browser

Apple's Safari browser, designed for macOS and iOS devices, functions within a unified system where user accounts are often interconnected. Altering settings in Safari can trigger a chain reaction, potentially disrupting voice communication and video conferencing capabilities not only in Safari but also in compatible web applications. If you still wish to disable or restrict WebRTC functionality, follow these steps:

  1. Open Safari on your MacBook. Access settings from the menu bar by clicking the Safari tab, then select "Preferences".
  2. In the settings window, click on "Advanced" and ensure the "Show Develop menu in menu bar" option is checked.
  3. Return to the main browser window, find the "Develop" section in the menu bar, click on it, and towards the end of the context menu, you'll find the "WebRTC" item. Hovering over it reveals a submenu where you can specify available actions for the technology. While you cannot completely disable WebRTC, you can deactivate support for legacy WebRTC APIs, enhancing online security.
  4. In the "Develop" menu, click on "Experimental Features" and disable the "WebRTC DTMF" and "WebRTC mDNS ICE candidates" options.

It's important to note that in the latest versions of Safari, Apple does not provide an option to fully disable WebRTC. This decision stems from issues with video and audio communication that users cannot resolve independently. Completely forgoing WebRTC is generally not recommended. In most cases, changing the setting from "Default" to "Enable" is sufficient, activating the browser add-on only upon a direct request to transmit voice or video from your IP.

Disabling WebRTC in Mozilla Firefox

Configuration of the internal settings of the Mozilla Firefox browser is carried out on a PC running Windows operating system version 7 and higher, as well as on Android OS. In the mobile version, some advanced settings may not be available. To change the option on PC:

  1. Open a web browser on your device, in the address bar enter the following command without quotes “about:config”. Don't confuse the address bar with the search bar. The address bar is at the top of the window. This is where the website address is entered.
  2. On this page, you need to uncheck or check the warning box and click on the “Accept the Risk and Continue” button.
  3. In the search, enter the command “media.peerconnection.enabled”, to avoid mistakes, copy it without quotes and paste it into the browser.
  4. Immediately after pasting, an additional line with the name of the same element will appear below the search field. Its status will be indicated on the right side: “True” or “False”. "True" means the option is enabled and working. If you need to disable the technology, left-click on the line twice or click on the toggle icon on the far right side of the line.

For the new Mozilla Firefox browser settings to take effect, you must restart it. There are no separate options for audio and video codecs, so once you disable the option, you will not be able to participate in video conferences, send voice messages, or take advantage of its benefits until you enable the feature.

How to disable WebRTC in Microsoft Edge

Disabling WebRTC in Microsoft Edge involves adjusting certain features through browser flags, as Edge offers limited settings for average users. Instead of fully eliminating WebRTC, you can restrict some of its functionalities. Here's how to do it:

  1. To start, open Edge and type "edge://flags/" in the address bar, then press Enter. This opens a page with experimental browser settings.
  2. The settings list can be long, so use Ctrl+F to search for “WebRTC” in the search bar in the upper right corner.
  3. The search will reveal three main features, each set to "Default", indicating they are enabled:
    - WebRTC downmix capture audio method - manages voice recording for transmission;
    - Anonymize local IPs exposed by WebRTC - an IP address anonymization service, but it can inadvertently expose user addresses, risking data leakage;
    - Microsoft Edge-wide echo cancellation - enhances audio and video quality over digital networks.
  4. Each function has 5 values, we are only interested in two - Enabled and Disabled. “Enabled” - enabled for all connection channels and PC users. Select “Disabled” to disable the option completely or “Enabled - Use first channel” for minimal functionality.
  5. The third RTC function is lower in the list. Use the search bar's toggle checkboxes to locate it, and apply the same settings as mentioned above.
  6. In older Edge versions, you may only find the "WebRTC Hide Local IP Address" option. If this is the case, disable any existing WebRTC-related options. Restart your browser after modifying settings.

Note that similar settings may exist on macOS and Android versions of Edge. Deactivating these parameters can adversely affect the performance of certain applications and the functionality of your device. Choose the "Disabled" option only if necessary and if you understand the potential limitations.

Disabling WebRTC in Opera

Adjusting media data transmission settings in Opera is similar to other browsers. Here's how to do it:

  1. In Opera's address bar, type "opera://flags" and press Enter.
  2. Use the built-in search bar in the top right corner to locate the option you need. Type "webrtc" and the search will display four relevant options.
  3. The first two options relate to voice-over IP, the third deals with IP anonymization, and the last supports audio and video streams. By default, all options are set to “Default”, meaning they are active. To disable each, change “Default” to “Disabled”.
  4. Disabling WebRTC in Opera will restrict voice and video communication over the network, but text messaging, streaming, and podcast listening will still be functional. Audio and video signals will be limited to reception only on your PC, not transmission. To apply the new settings, restart the browser using the “Relaunch” button.

Note that these internal settings are not available in the mobile version of Opera. Remember, achieving complete anonymity and 100% data protection using WebRTC can be challenging. Always review your browser settings carefully and use appropriate privacy tools when using WebRTC.

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