There’s no denying that the Internet makes it easy to learn new things, share information, and connect with family members and friends in all corners of the world. These days, billions of people globally use the web every day, either via smartphones or computers.
The major downside of Internet usage is that websites, businesses, and other people can easily find out stuff about you or what you’re doing. Online privacy is undoubtedly a cause for concern to many web users, and you too, seeing as you’re reading this article.
That’s why it makes sense to take some actionable steps for having more anonymous Internet browsing and usage. The following tips and tricks will help you use the Internet more anonymously and safely:
1. Use a Better Web Browser
Most people use Google Chrome for their web browsing needs, according to the statistics from the StatCounter website. Other popular browsers include Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Microsoft Edge (and its older brother Internet Explorer).
The problem is, those web browsers don’t score very well from a privacy perspective. Chrome, for example, gets developed by Google, a company that loves collecting data on everyone and everything on the planet.
When you next go online, use a more privacy-focused web browser. One such example is Brave; it doesn’t track what you do, and by default, blocks plugins, advertising trackers, and malware.
2. Connect to the Internet via a VPN
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can tell which servers and communication protocols you use on its networks. What that means is your ISP can see which websites and online services you use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It also keeps a record of the websites and services visited from your Internet connection. Did you know that ISPs can hand over such information to virtually anyone from the police to marketing companies, and there is little you can do about that?
One way to get around that problem is by using a VPN (virtual private networking) connection. It provides a secure way to use the Internet with your ISP, so they can’t tell what you’ve been doing or when you’ve been online.
VPN solutions are easy to set up, and you can install a VPN for Windows, Android, and iOS devices. What’s more, reputable VPN providers don’t keep any connection logs, and all traffic through their networks gets encrypted for additional online security and safety.
3. Stay off Social Media
Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get widely used by people who want to connect with their families and friends online, and also people that want to follow the developments of their favorite brands or celebrities.
Social media sites are free to use, but they do come at some cost: your privacy. Social networks love to collect data on their users and use that information for things like advertising (including selling your data to other businesses).
That’s why it makes sense to stay off social media if you value your online privacy. Even if social networks didn’t sell your data, they aren’t immune to hacking attempts from people that want to do the same thing.
4. Don’t Use Hosted Email Solutions
Gmail, Outlook.com, and Yahoo! Mail are some of the free online email providers used by billions of Internet users each day. While they provide convenient web-based email services to people, they’re also not known for their privacy.
Email isn’t a secure way to communicate with people, but there are some steps you can take to boost your email privacy. For example, if you buy a domain name, you can create your own mail server for sending and receiving emails.
Most people pay a web host for mail server services. However, if you’ve got a permanent Internet connection and a static IP address, you could securely host your mail server at home or in the workplace.
It is possible to encrypt email messages using PGP encryption, but the only downside is other people receiving your emails will need a compatible PGP-friendly email client to decrypt your message content.
5. Use Privacy-Focused Search Engines
Google is undoubtedly the world’s most popular search engine. However, it’s also good at collecting information about you, such as your searches, IP address, browser information, and even the links you click or tap from search engine results pages.
When you need to search for information online, you should consider moving to a more privacy-focused search engine. DuckDuckGo is one popular alternative, and when used with a VPN, it can help you search the web more anonymously.
Note that DuckDuckGo obtains information for search results pages from hundreds of different online sources.
6. Don’t Host Your Data in the Cloud
Companies like Dropbox make it easy to store and share any files online. It’s the preferred option for keeping data off-site for businesses, and it’s a viable alternative to attaching large files to emails.
However, cloud hosting services like Dropbox can see what kind of content you’ve got, making it not-so-privacy-focused. If you need to share files with other people online, did you know you can set up your own cloud-sharing service from home?
If you’ve got a fast and permanent Internet connection with a static IP address, you could use self-hosted cloud storage solutions like Nextcloud. You should ensure your home server has UPS power protection and data redundancy storage, such as a RAID hard drive array.
7. Clear All Temporary Files
Whether you use a desktop or laptop computer, or a smartphone or tablet, one thing that will happen is your device’s operating system will store temporary files, such as web browser cookies.
If you’ve visited any dubious websites recently, the last thing you want to do is open yourself up to any malware hacking attempts. That’s why it’s a good idea to clear all temporary files on your system each day. You can use free software like CCleaner to achieve that goal.