The internet has become one of the best ways to communicate. With just a click, you can express yourself to the masses, share ideas, reach new audiences, and more.
Unfortunately, there are growing concerns over how our rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and anonymity are not protected. Many websites, services, and apps are developing new ways to uncover people’s identities and discover who is behind the screen.
So, is the internet really such a safe place to share our views? Can your activity be traced back to you? And if so, what can we do to protect ourselves?
This article will explore how you can stay anonymous online. From implementing encryption to reviewing terms and conditions thoroughly, you’ll learn simple ways of protecting your identity while still getting the most from using the internet.
The internet and your right to anonymity
Online privacy is not just a luxury people would like – but a fundamental right. According to the ‘Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet,’ everyone has the right to privacy and to online anonymity.
In theory, this makes the internet a fantastic place to express yourself without compromising your safety. But unfortunately, that isn’t always the reality.
Nowadays, our personal information is at risk by companies keen to learn about their customers through various methods, including tracking cookies and identifying IP addresses. All of these are used to pinpoint your location, identify you, and trace a comment, a photo, or even a website visit back to you.
So what can be done to change this? How can consumers level the playing field? How can you reclaim your anonymity?
Not everything is lost. There are still ways you can fortify your privacy online.
Use more secure software, websites, and settings
One of the easiest ways of controlling what information you give to companies is choosing better, more secure-conscious options. This includes everything from the operating systems you use to the software installed and what kind of websites you visit.
For example, many operating systems like Windows require you to set up an account with them using your phone number or email address. Devices may come with pre-installed ‘bloatware,’ which can indirectly monitor your activity. You can avoid this by opting for open-source systems like Linux, often described as pro-privacy, and uninstalling unused software you aren’t using.
Additionally, you should consider using privacy-focused websites. Search engines like Google and Bing can track user search activity and feed this information into targeted ads. Alternatives like DuckDuckGo, for example, have dozens of privacy protections that assure your search history and IP addresses will not be tracked.
Finally, you should regularly clean out files like third-party cookies and your internet cache. Over time, these files can collect large amounts of data on your user activity. Deleting them will improve your browser performance and limit the amount of information websites receive about you.
Use encryption to safeguard your online activity
Encryption is one of the best ways to protect your online identity. It is when data sent or received is scrambled, making it unreadable to anyone monitoring you.
A virtual private network (VPN) is perhaps the most effective and easiest way to use encryption, as it encrypts the internet connection. Your online activity is sent through an encrypted tunnel, hiding it from websites you visit and your internet service provider.
You might ask, though, won’t websites be able to identify me through my IP address? Won’t that give away my location? Not quite. A VPN can change your IP address with just one click, making it seem like you’re living elsewhere.
Relocating your IP address has additional benefits. You’ll also be able to access otherwise censored or blocked websites in your country, bypass geo-restricted content, and more.
Review terms and conditions thoroughly
Whether it’s a website or a new app, many people will accept terms and conditions without question, not realising what they agree to. This can be a dangerous habit because you might not be aware of the information you’re willingly giving away or how the data collected could be used.
The best way to counter this is to review requests and permissions, see what data is collected, and decide whether it’s acceptable. For example, should an ordinary app be allowed to track your location? Or access your contact book? If not, is there a competitor that treats your privacy better?
Reconsider home assistants and IoT devices
We live in a connected world where most devices now connect to the internet and monitor our activity.
Research from Deloitte found that up to 75% of device owners feel they should be doing more to protect their information from companies and hackers but don’t feel empowered to act or know what to do.
The fact of the matter is that many of these devices monitor your actions, including your calendar and what you buy, as well as record your voice and location to provide you with services.
While we might enjoy these devices’ convenience, they raise serious privacy concerns. Consumers should review the terms and conditions of devices, examine their permissions, and decide whether they’re okay with the amount of data collected to safeguard their privacy.
Featured image via AndersonPiza – Envato Elements