Most of the Internet companies (including the websites you visit and your ISP) can track who you are and where you are located from your IP address. That’s one aspect that makes you miserable and known. When you’re surfing Google and its related websites, and if you are logged into your Google account, Google has access to your search behavior and the way you visit various websites associated with the company.
There are many programs on your computer – known to you and unknown to you – that constantly send information to various agencies and individuals about what you store on your computer or mobile phone. These can be malware and spyware. These are of such is dangerous variety and they can also cause financial loss. Then of course there are cookies that websites use to customize your experience.
Complete anonymity on the Internet is not possible because this would send the law enforcement agencies into a tizzy, but there are many ways you can make it harder for people to know who you are and where you are located.
Why would you surf the Internet anonymously?
The reasons can be trivial as well as critical. Trivial reasons might be something like hiding your extramarital affairs, hiding the traces of “naughty” downloads and such. On the serious side, you may like to hide your location while advocating free speech. You may also like to access websites that are restricted to a certain location, from a foreign country (for instance trying to access Hulu.com from a country where it is not made available). You may also not want search engines and other websites collect data regarding your behavior on the Internet. As mentioned above, there are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for surfing the Internet anonymously.
How to use the web anonymously
- Logout from your Google account: The simplest way is logging out of your Google account if you don’t want Google to track your behavior. The company isn’t doing anything nasty with the information, it just uses it to serve ads according to your interests.
- Use a proxy server: Whenever you visit various websites they send data to your IP address. Basically your IP address is needed to send digital information your way. A proxy server hides your IP address and instead uses its own IP address to serve you the pages. You can use a service like OpenDNS to hide your IP address. You can also install Tor on your computer to hide your IP address.
- Don’t use the same e-mail everywhere: Are you using e-mail to register on various websites, download free stuff and for your important communication? You need to stop that. Create an anonymous e-mail ID and use that for such purposes. Don’t use your primary e-mail ID for registering at various websites.
- Use updated antivirus and anti-spyware tools: Antivirus software can keep you safe to a great extent. There are many free and commercial anti-spyware and anti-virus tools available that you can use.
- Be ware of phishing scams: Phishing is rapidly being used to steal private information. Suppose somebody wants your PayPal login information: he will send you a page that looks like the official PayPal page and ask you for your username and password for verification. No website asks you to do that unless you specifically take the initiative. So whenever you receive such an e-mail, immediately forward it to the actual company.
These are not very high end ways of surfing the Internet anonymously, but to a normal user they can help to a great extent.