Protecting your online anonymity is no piece of cake. After all, today’s internet ecosystem – which is becoming increasingly surveilled and ad-driven – seeks to achieve the exact opposite. Whether it’s for national security or to steer you towards a product, marketers and governments want to find out everything about you.
That’s why throwing them off your trail is not easy. While it’s possible to hide your browsing history and stay anonymous online, let’s face it – it’s becoming more difficult with the passage of time. Though there’s not a lot you can do, a few measures can be taken to make it more difficult for anyone to expose you, at least to some extent.
Anonymity on the internet has its benefits as you can gain certain freedoms by being unrecognizable. But how can you keep your digital footprints safe, especially in this era of mass surveillance? Keeping this in mind, the following tools are perfect for being able to browse the internet safely without being tracked:
Tor – also known as “The Onion Router”– makes use of a series of relays and nodes to mask your traffic and hide your identity by disguising origins and IP addresses. Although there are a number of ways you can go about using the anonymity network, Tor Browser is considered to be the best option for privacy protection.
Simply install the Firefox-based application on your PC or Mac and start browsing the web anonymously. However, Tor has a few downsides. For one, it’s not suitable for torrenting files or streaming video as it offers a much slower browsing experience. Second, even though your traffic is untraceable and encrypted, your ISP can detect whether you are using Tor or not.
Since Tor is often misused by criminals and hackers to conduct online attacks and extortion, this alone may be enough to create suspicions. Your ISP can limit your bandwidth, fire off a cease-and-desist letter to you, or worse report you to the law enforcement authorities even if you haven’t done anything illegal or particularly wrong.
Use a Proxy
When you use a proxy server and enter the URL of the website you would like to visit, the pages are retrieved by the proxy instead of the person actually browsing the web (i.e. you). As a result, the remote server does not see your IP address and other browsing information because it’s replaced with that of the proxy server.
While this ensures you remain anonymous online, the bad news is a lot of proxies record your data to sell it or infect your system to turn your PC into a bot, which will be then used for a DDoS attack without you ever knowing about it. Furthermore, not only will you experience a slow browsing speed, but you will also find annoying ads on the top of your browser’s window (well, they have to make money somehow, right?).
Are You Every Truly Anonymous?
The answer is a simple, no. You are never truly anonymous and because of this, you should never do, say or search for anything online unless you are aware of the risk and understand that someone can be watching you. BUT, you can use these tools to minimize the information available to prying eyes, tracking and later use in intrusive personalized advertising.