We’ve all seen ads that follow us around the web; no matter where we go, there’s that annoying ad for shaving cream again.
All this means is that advertisers are able to trace your every move. They know which sites you visit, what videos you watch, which celebrities you follow, who your favorite sports teams are, etc., all with an eye to serve you an ad for a product you will ultimately buy.
But it’s more than that: If advertisers are able to track you, so can others. With all the online privacy scandals occurring right now, and the stories of our data being sold to the highest bidder on the black market, you might be ready to pull your hair out.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. You can simply hide online, making your internet sessions invisible to advertisers, hackers, government actors, or anyone else who may wish to snoop on your activities.
Here are some of the best ways to hide your data:
Delete your cookies
Everyone love cookies. But not these ones. The main way companies are tracking people online is through website cookies. Think of a cookie like when a scientist tags a Great White Shark; this tag is then used to track the shark’s movements as it migrates from, say, Mexico to the California coast, seeing exactly where it traveled, how deep it went, and other information scientists need to know in order to understand a Great White’s behavioral patterns.
A website cookie does the same thing. Once you visit a website, you get cookied, and that cookie is then used to track your every move so advertisers can “re-target” you with ads you might like to see.
To stop this, you’ll want to download a third party cleaning program or one that comes with antivirus to get rid of the cookies that are on your hard drive. You can also just delete cookies through your browser. This might remove settings for particular sites, but you’ll also eliminate the target from your back.
Stop saving cookies
Once these cookies are gone, you should set up your browser to stop saving them going forward. Here’s how:
Internet Explorer – Look at the top-right corner of the page and click the gear. Select “Internet Options.” Click on the tab labeled “Privacy,” and then click on the button labeled, “Advanced.” Click on the option that allows you to override the automatic handling of cookies, and then choose “Block” for “Third-party Cookies.”
Firefox – Click on the three horizontal lines at the top of the right side of the screen, and then choose “Preferences” if you have a Mac, or “Options” if you have a PC. Look for the “Privacy” label, and then choose “Firefox will use customer settings for history.” Finally, choose “Never” next to “Accept third-party cookies.”
Chrome – At the top right corner, click on the symbol that looks like three lines in a horizontal configuration. Click on “Settings.” In that menu, click on “Show advanced settings,” and then look for the “Privacy” section. Click “Content Settings,” look for “Cookies,” and then click “Block third-party cookies” before clicking “Done.”
Safari – If you use Safari, your settings for accepting third-party cookies are off by default.
Use a VPN
So far, we’ve removed the tracking devices for people to map out your online activities. Now it’s time to make ourselves invisible.
For this, you’ll need to download a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. This allows you to “hide in plain sight.” When you use a VPN like Hotspot Shield, you hide your IP address, your data is encrypted, you can access geo-blocked sites, and even use torrents. A VPN is simple to set up, and to use it, all you have to do is click the “connect” button whenever you go online.
Basically, a VPN routes your web traffic through its secure servers, where it will then scramble the data and assign you with a new IP address. This means you are now totally anonymous for all intents and purposes.
You can still access the internet and all websites like before, only now you’re much safer as your data is unreadable by hackers and no one can see who you are or where you’re connected. You can download a VPN like Hotspot Shield for free, and you should install it on both your mobile and desktop devices.
With that done, you’re now invisible online and you have no one tracking your every move. Rest easy. Your privacy is intact.