Today, we live in a world of mass surveillance. Everything we do online these days is tracked by our internet service providers (ISPs), government organizations, and advertising agencies that target our activity to show relevant ads.
Every time you search online for something using one of your favorite browsers like Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox, the information is passed to the main servers of these browsers, apart from the search engines we utilize.
This information is used to serve relevant advertisements on the websites you visit, apart from other things. Every activity online is tracked by your computer/mobile’s operating system or apps you use. While you may think that the internet was built on anonymity, your privacy on it is hardly a given.
To be honest, there’s no way to use the internet completely anonymously. However, you can utilize a few tools to minimize spying, targeted advertisements, information leaks, and more.
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While many tools are available online to use the internet anonymously, my favorite is Tor or Onion browser for all my electronic platforms. Detailed below is the complete rundown of how I use Tor on a daily basis to hide my online activity on both my computer and smartphones.
Using the internet anonymously on a laptop/desktop
As mentioned above, my favorite tool to use the internet anonymously is the Tor browser. It is available for OS platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Also known as the Onion browser, Tor provides multiple layers of security for all the user data that’s passed through it.
This browser encrypts all your web traffic utilizing the Tor network that allows you to stay anonymous online. When I use Tor, any of the websites that I visit can’t see my real IP address and location.
My favorite search engine to surf the internet on the Tor browser is DuckDuckGo. This engine offers private search and tracker blocking, apart from site encryption. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store any of your personal information.
Essentially, Tor sends your data through various anonymous servers across the globe, so it makes it difficult to identify what you are doing online. In layman’s definition, Tor hides a user’s identity by sending the connection request to any website around multiple servers worldwide, making it hard for anyone to figure out your exact location.
While Tor is one of the best solutions to stay anonymous online, it has the drawback of slowing down your browsing speed. Also, you shouldn’t use it for data heavy-uses like Torrenting. It’s worth mentioning that it isn’t advised to use any kind of add-ons with the Tor browser, as they may leak your personal information.
That said, when it comes to sending and receiving emails, many of you may utilize platforms like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. These emailing service providers go through your email to serve advertisements on their platforms. To avoid that, I use the privacy-focused ProtonMail service based in Switzerland.
ProtonMail offers privacy from search, apps for Android and iOS, and self-destructing messages. It’s worth mentioning that the free subscription of ProtonMail only allows for 500MB of data usage. Post the free limit; you can purchase its premium subscription that starts from $5/month.
Using the internet anonymously on Android or iPhone
Apart from Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X machines, the Tor browser is also available as an application on Google Play Store for Android devices and the App Store for iOS products. After a few clicks to install, the Tor browser for smartphones is quite simple. Just like your computer, the Onion browser helps you hide your online activity on your smartphone. Apart from Tor, you can also download DuckDuckGo’s application, which is available on both the App Store and Play Store.
As I said earlier, it’s impossible to go completely anonymous online. Like many of you, I have accounts on almost all social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. So to connect with friends and family, I have to use these platforms without worrying about my privacy. If you want almost complete anonymity online, then you should delete your account on social networking websites.
That said, since privacy is one of the biggest concerns among most internet users, various internet giants like Google are taking their own steps toward it. The search titan recently announced that it wants a “privacy-first web”, and it will be ending support for ‘cookies’ in its Chrome browser in the coming year. This will be one of the biggest steps by a search company to provide better privacy on user data.