Miscellaneous 4 min. read

5 Ways to Be More Anonymous Online

Nowadays, it seems like everything we do online is getting tracked. Government agencies, advertisers, and hackers are all trying to track our every move online.

Because of privacy concerns, many consumers have begun considering additional privacy measures, some more intensive than others.

Regardless of the specific method of masking browsing behavior, safeguarding your identity online is a smart thing to do. In the following article, we will outline five ways you can be more anonymous online. Although not the only strategies you can use to protect your privacy online, these five recommendations will help you get started on your quest for complete web anonymity.

1) Using a VPN or Web Proxy offers the closest to real anonymity online

The root of online identification lies in the connection between your browser and the host server. Both entities use an IP address that the host generally records and that can be used to identify your computer. In fact, your Internet browsers sends a considerable amount of information about your system to the server for various purposes. Masking or hiding this IP address is the most thorough way of browsing anonymously.

To mask your IP address, you can either use a web proxy service or a VPN service. However, a VPN service offers better privacy and security protection since it also encrypts all your online communications.

2) Clearing browser history and cookies offers surface level protection

One of the primary methods of tracking browser behavior is through the “cache”. This consists of simple text files called cookies and a record of browsing history that help to guide traffic suggestions, search results, and website behavior in subsequent visits. While much of this information is collected for marketing purposes to fuel advertisements, these simple files do represent a threat to those wishing to browse anonymously.

Suggested actions to take:

  • Enter your browser options and perform the necessary steps to clear history and cookies.
  • Utilize built in capabilities to prevent storage of cookies or enable the option to delete cookies upon browser exit.
  • Leverage the same options for browser history.
  • Consider using software that can automate the process of removing cookies and browser history.
  • Remove overlooked cookies by visiting this site and editing your Flash settings/deleting Flash Player cookies.

3) Social networks offer ever-evolving privacy options

The function of social networking sites is two-fold: enabling quick and easy sharing and storing massive amounts of consumer data for sale to advertising companies. The former is worth the registration, however the latter is not. Fortunately, public outcry over privacy concerns on Facebook have prompted developers to include comprehensive privacy controls that can help mitigate this threat. Learn more about additional privacy controls here.

Suggested actions to take:

  • Review privacy policies and update settings on social sites like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Exercise options that prevent publication of your updates to the public (opt for “Friends Only”).
  • Check app permissions and de-authorize unused/sketchy looking applications that have access to your data.
  • Acknowledge that any information, including photographs, text, or otherwise, shared to a social networking site may be considered property of that site.
  • Check back frequently to take advantage of new security options.

4) Setting up throwaway email accounts can compartmentalize your digital identity

The frustration of compulsory email registration is shared amongst most users. Not only do these sign-ups pepper your inbox with unwanted emails, but your email address can also get sold to organizations that specialize in spamming. In addition, having your email listed on any particular server can open you up to email intrusion, where precious data, including passwords, bank statements, and credit card info may be stored. By using a throwaway email address, you can protect yourself from spam and keep your important information separate.

Suggested actions to take:

  • Establish a throwaway email address so that you can reply to confirmation emails but avoid spam.
  • Setup separate email addresses for information of varying sensitivity.
  • Consider using DoNotTrackMe, whose masked email feature allows reception of confirmation emails and easy blocking of unsavory ones, all without giving away your true email address.

5) Intentionally avoiding signups can help prevent identification

The aforementioned headache of email registration for some websites requires little attention if you scrutinize what it is you sign up for. By avoiding email registration in general, you prevent the possibility of handing over personal information to less savory sites while keeping your inbox clean. With many agencies profiting from the sale of contact information, this remains the most secure option.

Suggested actions to take:

  • Thoroughly scrutinize the reputation of websites before visiting them.
  • If asked to register, simply close the box and continue browsing.
  • If the site mandates a registration, consider BugMeNot, a browser extension that bypasses such requirements.
  • Should you choose to register, but still wish to remain anonymous, consider using false information, including names, phone numbers, and addresses.

From simple solutions to more robust, more secure options, technologies and techniques exist that can fulfill the desire to browse anonymously. From clearing browser data to avoiding or masking email registrations to re-routed Internet connections, consumers have multiple tools at their disposal. As intrusion and monitoring capabilities grow more sophisticated, more technologies will likely fill the role as users endeavor to protect their information and their identity in an increasingly invasive world.

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