- Use a VPN
- Use cryptocurrencies to make payments
- Stop using Google
- Use Tor browser
- Do not use browser extensions
- Check your app permissions
- Turn off your location
Truth be told, everyone wants to be anonymous online. Given the opportunity, online users would find satisfaction in browsing the web with an unknown identity. That’s a fact no internet user can deny.
Surely, Vincent Cerf and Robert Kahn invented the internet to meet and connect people from all parts of the world. The intent was to appear reachable and identifiable when connected. However, with the internet’s development, things changed.
As the years went by and the internet spread throughout the world, governments began to realize what the world wide web is capable of. The authorities sought out ways to remain in control of that powerful technology, especially when they realized how much information the internet can provide them with. You know what they say: “knowledge is power,” and the governments were well aware of that. For this reason, the authorities employed the following services (websites, social networks, games, applications, smartphones, and software) to extract users’ information.
Being anonymous on the internet can be quite challenging these days. Some might even say that it is impossible. Surely it is not easy, but it’s manageable. You don’t have to anonymize yourself online using random profile pictures or alias names. There are other steps and techniques you can follow to appear anonymous online, and I’ll tell you all about them below.
1- Use a VPN
The best way to remain anonymous online is to use a VPN service provider. VPNs or Virtual Private Networks are online privacy and security tools that can help you gain complete anonymity and ultimate security. No other single solution works as well, and it doesn’t get better than a VPN service provider.
A VPN combines several security techniques and technologies into a single app. It offers features like security protocols, encryptions, and server networks. To begin with, the security protocols shield your online traffic and hide it from third parties. Encryptions transform your traffic into unreadable and inaccessible data. You should note that the encryptions VPNs use have never been decrypted before. As far as server networks go, most VPN companies operate hundreds, even thousands of servers in countries across the globe. When you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address — your online address — gets replaced by another one. The IP address carries valuable information about you, including your geo-location. By replacing it with a different one, you are in control of where you want to appear to be. Doing so will allow you to appear in different countries depending on which server you choose to connect to.
Some VPNs come cheap, but that doesn’t devalue them in any way. These security online tools are not at all expensive and are absolutely legal. VPNs offer many other features, take a look at the list below. Note that having all of these features in a VPN will grant you online anonymity, and a VPN that has all of those features combined is ExpressVPN.
- Money-back guarantee policy: The VPN company allows you to place a refund if you request it within a specified period of time- usually 30 days.
- DNS leak protection: This feature protects your traffic against leakage.
- Kill switch: Should your connection ever drop, the Kill switch protects your IP address from getting exposed.
- Torrent-specific servers: Such servers are perfect for downloading torrents.
- Steaming-specific servers: Similarly, these servers are designed for streaming content anonymously.
- No-logs policy: The VPN service promises not to log your information or track your online activities.
- Split tunneling: With this feature, you get to choose which parts of your traffic you want to protect.
- No third party interference: When connected to a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) won’t know what you are doing online.
2- Use Cryptocurrencies to Make Payments
All kinds of technological developments are marking the second decade of the 21st century. One of the most revolutionary ones is the invention of cryptocurrencies. The following are digital currencies, uncontrolled by a single entity. Neither the banks nor the government is in charge of this technology.
Any average user can make use of cryptocurrencies to gain a level of anonymity. Although they are not entirely anonymous, cryptos are pseudonymous. In simple terms, you can be anonymous when performing financial transactions through the medium that is cryptocurrency. Most exchanges require that you verify your identity before the completion of your account. Otherwise, anyone can step in and use your name for their own exchanges. At the moment, there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies with different technologies and uses. While these currencies are dubbed privacy coins, some offer better privacy features than others. Some examples include coins like Dash, Monero, Zcash, Verge, and more.
With every passing year, cryptocurrencies receive more and more attention. They’ve mostly gained popularity when users discovered how easily they can purchase goods and services from online merchants using these digital assets. Additionally, cryptocurrencies are also a great medium in which you can purchase VPNs. In this case, your identity remains hidden even from the VPN service itself. Some of the most popular cryptocurrencies right now are:
- Bitcoin (BTC) is the first and largest cryptocurrency.
- Ethereum (ETH) represents the second generation of digital currencies, and the second most important coin to ever be developed. Ethereum shifted the developers’ attention from cryptocurrencies to blockchain technology.
- Stellar (XLM) is one of the fastest crypto networks today. Its goal is to allow ordinary people to make near-instant cross-border transactions.
- TRON (TRX) is one of the most popular coins today. TRON’s ecosystem is growing rapidly as it has achieved a great deal of progress over the past months.
- Binance Coin (BNB) is a native cryptocurrency and one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges. It is among the best-performing cryptocurrencies in 2019.
Cryptocurrencies are the future of financial exchanges. Learning about them now wouldn’t hurt, in fact, it could be highly beneficial. You will be among those who first knew about the crypto trend.
3- Stop Using Google
Google is the most data-hungry company out there, and it shows. The search engine – and probably Chrome browser- records everything you do when you look something up. While it might seem like a harmless act, in reality, the company is collecting all the data it can get about you. Google tracks your online behavior, cookies, your geo-location, your searches, and online sessions’ time. If you are genuinely concerned about your online presence, you should refrain from using Google.
There are alternative search engines out there that do not even record a letter you type in, and here are a couple of examples:
- DuckDuckGo is one of the most popular choices for those who are privacy-conscious and don’t want to be tracked online.
- StartPage acts as a shield between you and Google. The search engine will run Google searches for you and deliver the same results. It does not keep records of your searches. You can trust that the search engine is true to its claims because it is regularly checked and audited by third parties. If they were doing anything different, someone would have found it by now.
4- Use Tor Browser
As pre-mentioned, Google’s Chrome browser is not better than its search engine. You can make use of other browsers, like Opera, Firefox, or even Brave. However, if you wish to achieve true anonymity, you should opt for Tor.
Tor is a special anonymity browser that runs on a network created by volunteers that is free to download. The process in which it operates is similar to how torrenting works. A group of computers from all around the world create a network through which all the traffic passes through. Furthermore, all the requests for information — like typing in the name of a website — pass from one computer to the other. In the end, no one can tell who requested access to that piece of information.
“We believe everyone should be able to explore the internet with privacy. We advance human rights and defend your privacy online through free software and open networks.”Tor Project
This comes at a price, of course, and that price is reduced browsing speeds. Tor Browser is not the right choice for streaming or downloading content. It might even face difficulty with regular YouTube videos. But, if you wish to browse safely and anonymously — there is no better option than Tor.
5- Do not Use Browser Extensions
We all like using browser extensions because they offer great possibilities. You can use one, for example, to find coupons for online purchases, check your spelling, and to memorize your passwords for you.
While you can make use of these browsers for multiple reasons, they are not as safe as you may assume. Just like Google, these browsers collect as much data as they can. When using browser extensions, third-party developers comprise your privacy by selling the data they collect from you. They sell it to advertisers who use this information to target you with personalized ads. Selling data to hackers or scammers is also a possibility.
While it’s nice to benefit from all that browsers have to offer, it is just not worth jeopardizing your online privacy and security. Surely, not every developer will do this as many of them so happen to be trustworthy, especially when it comes to the creators of some of the most popular extensions.
Regardless, there are creators out there with questionable morals who would do anything for profit. This is why I advise you to stop using extensions.
6- Check your App Permissions Settings
Whenever you download an app on your phone or tablet, it asks you for permission to access different things. Naturally, if you are downloading an app for pictures, you grant it access to your photo library. However, some apps ask for way more than just that.
A photo app has no business in accessing your contacts, location, or messages, and yet, there are many that do. This is why you must check all of your apps and their permissions. You never know what the developers might be getting in return for their apps’ services. You might be giving away much more than you think. Even Android and iOS operating systems themselves are likely to track you and send reports about the information they have collected. Despite the fact that companies use this technique to better their services, user consent must be at the forefront of any tracking activity.
7- Turn off your location
Websites can request data from your phone and PC, and if your location is not turned off — they can detect your geo-location. Turning off location is very easy to do on Windows. All you need to do is the following:
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Location.
- Select the ‘Change’ option and switch off the slider.
- You are not done yet, scroll down a bit.
- Find Location History.
- Click on the ‘Clear’ button, and you will be done.
Note that the websites might also check your location history, which is why you should delete it.
Now is the time that you turn off your location tracker on your mobile device:
- On Android: Go to Settings > Security & Location > Advanced > Location > Turn On/Off.
- On iOS: Go to Settings >Privacy > Location Services, and then choose an app that needs to be modified.
By doing so, you can prevent individual apps from knowing where you are, instead of just turning off location for everything.
Beware of Social Media
Social media networks are huge these days. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Discord, and others are extremely popular, and many of us tend to spend hours and hours on them. We share our vacation photos, selfies, thoughts, feelings, news, jokes, etc. Unknowingly, everything you share gets uploaded and recorded by the networks we are using. Oversharing can have a huge impact on the status of your online security and privacy.
These networks record pretty much everything, just like Google. The retrieved information is later used for analysis. The companies try to get a hold of what people are interested in, what’s trending, and the biggest buzzes.
If you have ever owned a Facebook page, you probably know what’s in and what’s not. You get to learn a lot about consumers from the number of likes and dislikes on posts, the origin of your fan base, and so much more. Imagine what Facebook has collected about us throughout the years. Facebook is worrying because of its privacy-related incidents like the one about Cambridge Analytica, which attempted to alter the public’s opinion prior to the US elections. Instagram is no better. They all want to know all about us without bothering to ask for our permission. Keeping that in mind, you need to be careful as to what you decide to upload and share online.
I hear you, you want to stay low key when booking reservations, streaming movies, purchasing concert tickets, shopping online, etc. What you do online is nobody else’s business, and if snooping is what governments, ISPs, browsers, and social networks continue to do, you resort to the steps we laid out above.
Preserve your right to stay private when tapping into anonymity with the tips we provided you with. Out of all we mentioned, which one do you think you will apply? Share your comments and thoughts in the comment section below.