You’ll find a lot of arguments against internet anonymity. People may tell you that only people who have something to hide want to hide. Others will tell you how digital tracking methods can help investigators solve or even preempt crime. Still, others may mention how it deters people from engaging in illegal activities online. Most people in the world use services like Cox internet, web browsers, search engines, and much more. This means universal identification could be a real possibility. A possibility that some say guarantees security.
But what about the darker side of the internet people are slowly becoming aware of? What if you don’t want to give up online anonymity? Read on why anonymity is a digital right and how you can preserve it.
Maintaining Internet Anonymity – Why and How
Let’s start with the why bit first. Don’t let people shame you when you express your desire to be anonymous on the internet. It is nothing shady or illegal to be ashamed of. Digital anonymity is simply an extension of the universal right to privacy. Every human is entitled to it. And the slew of privacy violations and regulatory penalties all over the world indicates the right extends to the digital world as well. You asking for anonymity is not something extraordinary, but something that you should have by default.
Sadly, it is usually the other way around on the internet. The average internet user may seem like an incognito window is privacy enough. But it isn’t. Browsers, search engines, internet providers, and even third-party apps can continue to bother you and gather data. And they do that all the time. Almost every cookie on your device tracks you. Your smartphone software GPS and location-based apps do the same. Even your keyboard app could be gathering data. This means the average internet user is the opposite of anonymous. So, if you want to fix that, these tips should prove helpful:
Use Privacy-Focused Browsers
Popular web browsers or apps like Google Chrome or Firefox are great and easy to use. But they also gather data on your interactions within the browser. This includes browsing habits and behavior like search history or scrolling. In addition, they allow websites to track you via cookies that you don’t really need after your first interaction. So, if you want to get some of your privacy back, switch to browsers designed for privacy like Duck-Duck-Go.
Communicate Over Encrypted Texting Apps
Text messages are a fairly easy source for third parties to mine. Algorithms can “read” and analyze what you text other people about. While some companies may not share the actual texts, others may not be as scrupulous. And in any case, they can still read the clear text themselves given the right backdoor. Luckily, end-to-end encryption apps like Signal offer much more security. They encrypt both the text as well as the channel to make it almost impossible for anyone to spy on it.
Invest in a Paid VPN Service
Virtual proxy network services form the bread and butter of digital privacy. Every device has an IP or MAC address that is a unique identifier. If inclined, this ID can let internet platforms and services monitor and catalog your habits. A VPN service masks your device ID by bouncing it around geographically distinct servers. However, be sure to use a reputable paid service like NordVPN. Cheap and free VPNs may let you access restricted content. But they’re only free because, ironically, they gather data on you and profit off it.
Move Personal Data to Encrypted Storage Platforms
Encryption is one of the toughest security layers in the digital world. Get out of the free-to-use mindset. If something is free, you are most likely the real product. That includes many popular photo or data storage services. Have you noticed how Google Photos can identify and group photos according to faces? It’s not an accident. Algorithms have advanced far enough for facial recognition, and they need training before they can. This implies most cloud services probably gather information from the data you store.
Hide Personally Identifiable Information Online
The less you share publicly the better. However, many of us cannot simply delete all our social media profiles and go off the grid. You still need to hang out with friends and get in touch with loved ones. You may even want to connect with a potential employer on LinkedIn. This is just how the world works now.
But you can still take certain measures to remain anonymous. Start with removing or restricting public identification information or PII. This includes things like your email address, phone number, social security number, and more. But it can also include your pet’s name, your home address, or your birthday. Exposing this information for everyone to see is far too risky.