You may worry about your personal information online and rightly so. The Pew Research Center reported that only 2 percent of adults are very confident that search engine providers keep their personal records private and secure, while 41 percent of adults are not at all confident. Because of this lack of confidence, many people use tools that help them stay anonymous while online.
Some ways to hide online are fast and simple, while others are a little more complex. Here are eight ways you can stay anonymous online and keep your personal information safe.
Use a Proxy Server
If you wish to remain anonymous, you need to hide your IP address. A proxy server connects through a different web server, hiding your IP address with its own. There are numerous free and paid proxies available, and many popular web browsers also offer proxy server extensions you can use.
Use a Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) also hides your IP address. A VPN lets you connect to private networks using a public network. When you use one, it replaces your own IP address with one from the VPN provider. Using a VPN also hides your location; for example, you may be in New York City, but with a VPN, you appear in London.
TOR is short for The Onion Router, and it’s one of the easiest ways to browse anonymously online. It is a free software that hides your identity by redirecting your traffic from different servers and encrypting it so it cannot be traced back to you. To use TOR, you simply download and install it on your computer. It is extremely simple to use but not without flaws, and you should still take special precautions when browsing online.
Check Your Browser’s Settings
This is another simple step you can take to protect your personal data online. In your browser’s settings menu, you can control how much information it stores about you. If you give your browser the option, it can save passwords, downloads, images, cached content, info saved on pages you visit and more. While using safe browsing settings online doesn’t completely hide you, it sets up barriers to prevent others from accessing your information and learning about your browsing habits.
Create Email Aliases
If you want to stay hidden, then do not provide any information that makes it easy to find you. Avoid online shopping; checking finances; and signing up for contests, giveaways or spam. If you do use a service that needs your email, use an alias and a secure email service that encrypts your messages and requires a password to decrypt them.
Use a Virtual Box
When you work with sensitive information, consider using a virtual box. This is basically a second virtual computer hosted within your operating system. To use one, you simply install a virtual machine application. You can open your secure files while using the virtual machine, and once you finish, you delete the files and the virtual box, removing any trace of the sensitive information on your computer.
Block Third-Party Cookies
Stay Away From Social Media
Social media is a goldmine of personal information. While you may not post information every day or even be active on your social media channels, these networks still store an ample amount of data about you. If you want to be extra cautious, stay completely away from social media.
While avoiding social media may not be an option, there are ways to see just how much information others have access to. Facebook provides you with a full report of all the personal information people can see on your profile. You can view this report by going into your Facebook settings and clicking on “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
Additionally, as you use all social media channels, remember to regularly check and turn on security settings. If you wish to leave a social media network, delete your account – don’t just deactivate it. When you only deactivate your account, you are saying you still want your information to be available in case you choose to resume with that channel. Deleting an account removes all information.
No matter how many precautions you take, it is still extremely difficult to hide completely while online. However, the smarter you are about the information you provide and the more steps you take, the more difficult it becomes for others to gather your personal information and invade your privacy.