By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Your IP address is a string of numbers that identifies your digital device as you use the Internet. Each address is composed of four numbers separated by periods. Each number is from 0 to 255. The numbers indicate your domain, subnetwork, network, and host computer. This provides a lot of information that you may not want to share.
Your IP address changes with your location, so you’ll have a different IP address indicating that you’re at the coffee shop or library, rather than the one you use at home. Your Internet service provider (ISP) may change your IP address regularly, but this will only do so much to really disguise you. Unless you take action to hide it, a wealth of information is still there. Here are some compelling reasons to hide your IP address.
Get Marketers Off Your Trail
Marketers use your IP address to track your activity. This is why you’ll often see ads for something you’ve recently viewed displayed on a completely unrelated site. Internet-savvy advertisers follow your online footprint to determine what you’re most interested in. This is smart business from the marketer’s viewpoint. Showing you ads that are carefully tailored to your tastes just increases the likelihood you’ll click through and make a purchase.
However, as the consumer, it can feel like an invasion of privacy to have your information gathered this way. The strategy is far from flawless. It may result in you seeing a plethora of ads for a product someone else recently purchased for you using your family computer. If a guest uses your computer, those tailored ads offer a detailed look at what kinds of sites you browse most, which isn’t always something you want to share.
Increase Security on Wi-Fi Hotspots
Using Wi-Fi hotspots is notoriously tricky. While the convenience of Wi-Fi in a public location is undeniable, it’s crucial that you keep your personal information safe. Masking your IP address will add another layer of security to your browsing activities.
When you use a virtual private network (VPN) like Hotspot Shield, your information passes through the VPN server before it reaches the destination. It’s carefully encrypted for the journey as well, so hackers can’t see the data you’re sending. From the recipient’s end, the only IP address associated with your information is the one that belongs to VPN.
Access Content Despite Geoblocks
Geoblocks make content available only to browsers within certain geographical bounds. This applies most commonly to streaming media sites. What if you’re addicted to a great UK comedy, but live in the U.S.? Sites with geoblocks use your IP address to determine whether you’re located in the proper area.
If you hide your actual IP address and connect instead through a virtual location within the website’s area, you can bypass these geoblocks for free Internet access. A program like HotSpot Shield can help you connect to various websites using virtual locations from around the globe. You no longer have to leave the country to experience media as though you’re abroad.
Bypass Network Restrictions
Some networks restrict the type of content you can access. Libraries and schools in particular are notorious for setting up heavy restrictions. While this is a smart practice in theory, these systems often block plenty of useful sites that have no nefarious information or purpose. Using a different IP address will get you past these restrictions so you can browse the Internet freely.
Hide Your Location
Perhaps the most obvious reason to hide your IP address is to mask your location. If you don’t want people to know where you live or where you commonly access the Internet from, hiding your IP address is the best way to do it. Those four little numbers can let a savvy hacker track your every move, which is dangerous for any number of reasons.
Many social media sites track and report your location automatically if you’re not careful about your settings. If you’re concerned about keeping your whereabouts private, be wary of Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. You should consider carefully if you want to publicize this information, whether you decide to hide your IP addresses or not.
Keep Search Activity Private
If you have a static IP address that doesn’t change regularly, websites can continually track your activity. This leaves an unending log of what you’re looking at and how you browse. Search engines in particular love this information. They can use it to determine how you look for content, which results are most relevant to you, and how you navigate the Internet.
This may seem innocent, but many people are increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of monitoring outside parties can do. If you want your search engine traffic to stay anonymous, hiding your IP is one of the best ways to do it.
Regardless of your reasoning, hiding your IP address is an effective way to increase your privacy and security. You have the right to browse the Internet however you like without anyone tracking or logging your movements. From marketers to your ISP, there’s a seemingly endless number of people looking to track your data. Snag a program like Hotspot Shield to mask your IP address and stop them in their tracks.