Some of you might say that internet was built on anonymity, paving the way for a system where free speech reigns supreme. But now we are living in the world of surveillance. After years of learning who is snooping into everything we do online, privacy on the web is hardly a given.
It’s not only about government spying, it’s about how much data top companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have collected to serve the targeted ads – not to mention about the personal data that gets scooped up in all breaches and hacks.
There are good reasons for people to go online without being tracked. There is nothing inheretly wrong with being anonymous, no matter what you are doing. But the question is – is it really possible to control your privacy online? Here is how you can explore the online world without getting tracked:
Proxies, Tor or VPNs
One of the ways you can prevent others from gathering information about you while you are surfing the web is to pretend you are someone else in a different location. This will require a fast VPN connection or a proxy server – or both. You can stay totally anonymous and can also surf any websites that are banned in your country.
A proxy server is a router or computer system that works as a relay between server and client. VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) is everywhere. They have the benefit of securing the traffic between your system and the server by masking your IP address and location. You can select from a wide range of VPN providers such as Bitdefender, ExpressVPN etc. You can also check these nifty Bitdefender discounts if you are planning to buy any kind of cybersecurity.
No discussion about privacy can ever be complete without the mention of Tor. The name comes from the “onion router”, which is also a metaphor for many layers of security. Tor is a totally free network of tunnels for routing web requests and page downloads.
Avoid Search Engines Like Google, Yahoo etc.
Bing, Google, and Yahoo are the most popular search engines that collect data from users to serve them the most relevant ads and to personalize services. These search engines collect your name, email, birthday, phone number and other details while Google and Bing also collect other information like device location, device information, cookie data, and IP addresses.
It is recommended to use search engines like DuckDuckGo to avoid being tracked. It’s an independent search engine that doesn’t provide you with personalized search results. Anyone who does a search gets the same results and your search doesn’t get saved. The search engine even claims that it has nothing to sell to the advertisers which means you will never be subjected to targeted ads.
Use Anonymous Email and Communication
Using proxies, Tor, or VPN will just obscure your IP address from prying eyes, but sending emails brings a different anonymity challenge. Let’s say you send somebody an email, but you don’t want them to know your email address. There are two ways to do this:
The first one is using the alias which is a forwarding address. So, when you send an email, the recipient sees the forwarding address, not your real address. As mail is forwarded to the regular inbox, this method keeps your real email a secret.
Second method is to have a disposable email account. It can be done in two ways. You can create a new email account with fake name and use it for a certain time period. You can even use a disposable email service which works by creating a temporary email address for you and is deleted in certain amount of time. Also, the VPN which is communicating with through anonymous email address keeps your identity hidden.
The Bottom Line
Online privacy is a myth and if you still believe in it, you might be compromising your secret information. Using any of the above methods will keep your identity stay private while VPN will provide you with complete anonymity. But you need to be careful while selecting a VPN. Not every VPN which claims privacy is really private. Some might be leaking your browsing activity to the government. So, be careful and try your best to stay anonymous online.