When we talk about being anonymous online, we’re not thinking about it in a creepy stalker kind of way. Instead, we’re thinking about how companies, hackers and the government are keeping an eye on us.
Have you noticed that you can’t browse the internet these days without adverts for the products you’ve been looking at popping up on your social media feeds?
The truth is that internet privacy is very poor. However, there are a few things you can do to enhance your privacy.
This list was created by BullGuard. You don’t have to follow all of them, but by adopting one or two you could enjoy a little more anonymity online.
Anonymising operating systems
Most of us use standard operating systems such a Windows or MacOS. However, there are other operating systems we can use that anonymise users. For instance Tails is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a USB stick or a DVD. Tails preserves your privacy and anonymity; all connections to the Internet go through Tor network nodes which ensure users are anonymous. There are operating systems which provide anonymity such as Ironkey Workspace, ZeusGuard and Qubes OS.
The value of VPNs
A virtual private network (VPN) anonymises your web surfing and keeps your communications private. They are specifically built to make your internet connection more difficult to identify and track as well as encrypting your communications.
Tor is often thought of as a browser which it is, but is also much more. It’s a system consisting of tools, browsers, application programming interfaces and a network all dedicated to helping you stay anonymous online. When you use the Tor browser you enter a Tor network path and the traffic to and from your destination is routed through a random set of Tor network nodes. Tor is one of the best ways to stay anonymous when combined with other privacy tools.
Privacy Badger is a browser plug-in offered by the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Available for Chrome and Firefox, it stops advertisers and third-party trackers from tracking your web browsing, including what pages you visit. It watches third-party domains that place images, scripts and advertising in web pages you visit and stop them from tracking you.
Free applications can track you
Free applications come with a price. If an application is free and it isn’t designed to protect your privacy and its popular then it’s very likely that it contacts servers and send back information about how you are using the product.
If you have a few privacy features in place the Electronic Freedom Foundation provides a service to assess how well they are working. Simply click through to this page and click the Test Me button.
‘Private’ search engines
Popular search engines like Google and Bing keep track of your searches so they can target ads at you. The DuckDuckGo browser is designed to protect your privacy so your searches aren’t tracked.
Sharing files anonymously
Dropbox is very popular file sharing service. But as Edward Snowden said it is “hostile to privacy.” A free alternative that enables anonymity is OnionShare. It’s available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu.
Delete cookies and browsing history
It’s a good idea to regularly clean out cookies that websites use to track you and your browsing history. These can be used to identify where you’ve been. CCleaner is a useful free tool that enables you to do this quickly. There are others too.
Privacy is a basic right we all have. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you gain control of your online life.