An average person may not be too worried about their privacy on the internet. Nor do they wish to go into hiding from the rest of the world and carry out their business anonymously.
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people who have concerns about their safety on the internet and would like to find effective means that erase their tracks on the internet.
Despite the fact that it is harder to keep yourself anonymous online than it was before because of all the technological advancements, the Internet of Things, and overall negligence of people, the situation does not have to be hopeless.
You can still take some action and protect your identity as well as other sensitive information without giving up all the entertainment, education, and other goodies that the internet has to offer.
Tip #1 – Use Virtual Private Networks
A virtual private network is one of the best ways to give yourself some peace of mind if you are worried about online privacy. VPNs mask your IP address making it difficult to trace your online actions. Besides that, a virtual private network will give you access to geo-restricted content.
But the most important element is that a VPN establishes an encrypted connection that offers better online privacy and security.
The question of do you need VPN at home or not is tricky. For the most part, you should be fine, particularly if your biggest concern is regarding security rather than privacy. Your ISP should offer a network with enough security protocols, so a virtual private network might be a bit of an overkill.
The services come in handy when you want to connect to public Wi-Fi. The internet at cafes, libraries, and hotels lacks security protocols, and you do not have a way to improve these holes yourself. Hackers may be waiting for unsuspecting victims, and you could become one yourself if you are not careful.
Surfing the net via VPN creates a data tunnel that encrypts the data you send and makes it unreadable. Those who may be eavesdropping on your internet activity will have a hard time accessing the information they desire. The browsing history and your location will be associated with a VPN’s server location rather than where you actually are.
Tip #2 – Invest in Proxies
Proxies are similar to virtual private networks. They provide another alternative to hiding your IP address. In addition to that, a proxy server also prevents requests from your IP address or requests coming at your IP address directly.
When it comes to anonymity, proxies are more focused on automated data collection and recognition rather than avoiding particular people who may be interested in your internet history.
As a rule of thumb, you should think of proxy services as a means to mask your IP address, not security and anonymity, particularly if you are a personal user rather than a business.
The suggestions of free proxies listed on Webshare will allow you to try proxies for yourself and see what they offer. Also, the list provided on the website is quite good since there are no captchas and IP bans to worry about.
Tip #3 – Stick to Incognito Mode
The incognito mode is one of the most basic privacy options available on internet browsers. You can enable a private browsing mode in a settings menu.
Keep in mind, though, that private browsing is quite limited. While it prevents storing cookies and browsing history on your device, the incognito mode reaches only as far as your local machine. You can still read books on the internet, watch videos, and do other activities without your parents, kids, or significant other finding out.
On the other hand, If somebody wants to track your IP address, they will have few issues in case you have enabled only the private browsing feature.
Tip #4 – Avoid Social Media
Social media continues to play a prominent role in our lives. Some people lose track of how much time they spend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms.
It is no secret that not everyone refrains from sharing personal details on social media. Posting pictures of your travels, work, meetings with friends, and other people is not the best approach for those seeking anonymity.
Even if something interests you on social media, you can create a fake account or look at posts without having a user profile. According to BBC, leaving a trace on social media platforms is one of the most common reasons to become a victim of identity theft. Thus, you would be better off avoiding social media in general.
Tip #5 – Avoid Communication Platforms
Similar to social media sites, communication platforms like Discord also pose a threat. While these platforms encourage more anonymity (most users use nicknames and fake avatars instead of profile pictures), one can still overshare personal information and pay for it.
Discord may have a community of like-minded people that share your interests. For example, someone who loves movies, books, or a musician creates a channel and invites others to join.
It is easier to connect and get attached to someone who is interested in the same things as you. However, you cannot see another user in person, and knowing what they are really like in real life is quite difficult. Sticking to general channels and not exposing yourself is the right strategy if you find yourself visiting Discord and other similar communication platforms.
Tip #6 – Try Anonymous Currency
Anonymous currency might seem like a bit of a stretch to some, but it is still worth giving a shout. Cryptocurrency is perhaps the best example of how you can buy and sell goods and services online without leaving a trace.
At the same time, payment methods like Skrill and even PayPal exist, and they happen to be more secure than a credit card, especially if you make a private deal with another person instead of purchasing from an online store.
Tip #7 – Use Different Search Engines
Google may be the most popular search engine with more than 90% share of the search engine market, but it does not mean that the platform provides its users with enough privacy and safety.
In fact, it is not just Google. Yahoo and Bing are also known to be quite prone when it comes to privacy. All those ads you see on the most popular search engines are the result of data collection. You do log in and enter your email address, birthday, gender, and even phone number in some cases while using Google services, right?
Well, doing so was a mistake in the first place. But you can remedy the situation by limiting your time on Google and sticking to something like DuckDuckGo.
DuckDuckGo is not a personalized search engine. It gives the same results to each platform user regardless of their location or IP address. Moreover, the search engine also suggests that it does not collect and sell information to advertisers, meaning that you will not become the next target for someone interested in selling you a product or service.
In case you still need to use Google for some reason, the least you can do is disable personalized ads in the Privacy & Personalization tab in your Google account. It is not much, but disabling personalized ads should help with internet privacy a little bit.
Tip #8 – Get Rid of Your Home Assistant
If you truly value your privacy, throw that home assistant, which is likely standing on a table somewhere in the house. Amazon Echo or Google Home may seem like a neat addition to your life, but these devices are a hindrance to one’s privacy and security.
The issue escalates even further when it is not just you who owns a home assistant but also your neighbors. When there is a ring or a network of smart assistants connecting the neighborhood and recording your moves and voice, expecting to remain anonymous is futile.
Tip #9 – Change Your Smartphone
Staying anonymous on a smartphone is complicated. Quite a few apps will ask you for permission to access your location. You are also more likely to connect to public networks because traveling or just walking around with a smartphone is more convenient than it is with a laptop.
The current lifestyle dictates that we should have a smartphone. Nevertheless, you can still make some positive changes. For example, there are VPN services available for smartphones. On the other hand, if you are still worried about someone tracking your moves, get a burner phone or stick to a flip phone. You may not have access to the goodies that a smartphone offers, but at least there will be fewer worries about anonymity.
Tip #10 – Delete Traces
Delete any traces that you leave. For instance, if you use a public computer, do not save your passwords on it. It is recommended to create a throwaway account if possible rather than accessing the one you use on your personal computer.
Browsing history is another element to consider. If you forget to enable the incognito mode, remember to clear the browsing history and cookies. Leaving a single trace may come back to bite you.
All in all, complete online privacy is more or less impossible. If you really want that, you would probably need to throw away all of your technology and start living inside a cave. But that is an unlikely option, meaning that you need to take other measures. Hopefully, the tips in this article are enough to help you create a solid strategy that allows for online anonymity.