How to Search the Web Anonymously – Techlicious
Techlicious editors independently review products. To help support our mission, we may earn affiliate commissions from links contained on this page.
Want to keep your web browsing more private? A good first step is looking at how you can search the web anonymously – or at least, more anonymously.
There are plenty of practical benefits, from avoiding ads based on personal ailments and mortgage needs, that you may not want an employer or family member finding out about, to ducking everyday surveillance by government snoops, like the FBI or NSA. And if you’re traveling or living in a country with strict internet censorship, it could be that you need to hide what you are searching from a totalitarian government.
Searching the web anonymously may even affect the prices you’re shown on flight prices – one Consumer Reports study suggests some online travel agents may be changing the prices shown to browsers with a lot of searches for a particular flight.
Depending on what you want to accomplish, here are five ways to search more anonymously online.
1. Use DuckDuckGo to search
Unlike Google or Bing, this privacy-focused search engine doesn’t save searches, so you’re effectively anonymous to (some) advertisers – DuckDuckGo can’t build a profile of you based on queries, nor sell any such data to third parties. Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t hold profiles of its users, the search results displayed will not be tailored to you (that is, your IP address, the main identifier of your computer), helping pop that filter bubble that reinforces existing biases and viewpoints – something that even Google is admitting has become a problem for its search engine.
You will still see ads on results pages, but these ads do not contain tracking cookies and are based on search queries, not your overall profile. Along with a minimal interface and fast search function, DuckDuckGo – like Google – offers zero-click info for straightforward facts-hunting: for example, type in 45 USD to GBP, and the first result will show how many pounds sterling your bucks would get you at the current exchange rate.
You can also directly search any site from the DuckDuckGo toolbar by using a “! ” in front of a site name, then typing your query. Major sites such as Amazon and Wikipedia have abbreviations (in this case, “! a” and “! w”).
Just head to (or set it as your homepage) to search. If you use Firefox or Safari, you can head into Preferences > Search to select DuckDuckGo as your default search engine – that is, when you type a query into the browser’s search field, it will be parsed by DuckDuckGo. Chrome users can manually add the DuckDuckGo extension from its homepage (the link will automatically display on a Chrome browser) in order to use DuckDuckGo directly from browser. Bonus: the DuckDuckGo’s browser extension (also available for Firefox and Safari) blocks trackers at websites and displays privacy grades based on sites’ policies and number of trackers found.
What this does: Prevent advertisers (and anyone) from building a profile on you based on your search terms
But: Searches made via DuckDuckGo are still saved in your browser history. If you use Chrome or Edge, your browsing history (i. e., these searches) will be shared with Google and Microsoft respectively, to be used for reasons including tailoring ads and what you see in these companies’ products, as well as speeding up the browser (for example, by predicting sites that will be visited).
This also does not stop your internet service provider and anyone monitoring your browser (such as a company IT admin, or snooper on a public Wi-Fi network) from viewing your browsing history, including search result pages displayed by DuckDuckGo
2. Manage how your browsing history is used by companies
Given the data policies of at least two of the Big Four browser providers, your browsing history is likely to be used in order to personalize your experience across various products, as well as to speed up performance (such as predictive page loading). This means that even using a search engine that doesn’t save searches may not prevent your search queries from being logged and used in targeted advertising and profile building.
To change what your browser shares with its parent company (and attendant ad networks):
Chrome: Tap the top-right three dots and hit Settings > Sync > Control how browsing history is used to personalize Search, ads and more. Here you can exclude Chrome history (and therefore search via DuckDuckGo) from being used to tailor what Google shows you.
Check in Settings if you have enabled syncing of Chrome bookmarks and logins across various devices. If so, your browsing history will still be saved to your Google account – however, you can prevent this history from being accessed and used by Google by adding a passphrase. (Note that you will then have to enter the passphrase everytime you sign into Chrome somewhere new, and not all history will sync, only sites where you enter the URL. )
Edge: Search history as a part of browser history may be shared with Microsoft to tailor Cortana, target advertising, and speed up Edge (for example in auto-completing search terms or site addresses). You can manage this:
– To stop using browser history to personalize Cortana, head to Settings > Permissions & History > Manage the information Cortana can access from this device; here you can disable Browser History.
– To stop auto-completing search terms, head to Settings > View Advanced Settings and turn off Show search and site suggestions as I type
– To stop browser history being used to tailor ads, head to Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & feedback > Tailored experiences
3. Use a VPN
If you want to protect your searches from hackers, government surveillance and internet service providers, a virtual private network (VPN) is your must-have privacy tool to browse the web anonymously. This encrypts and routes your web traffic through servers belonging to the VPN provider. This masks your IP address; as well, each time you use the VPN, your IP address would change, so that searches are not aggregated into a profile that can be targeted for advertising.
Since the VPN provider itself could view your web traffic, it’s crucial to choose a “zero-logs” VPN that does not store or access your web traffic – usually, this means going for a paid-for service, which has less incentive to monetize its users.
We like NordVPN (affiliate link) and ExpressVPN, both of which do not log traffic and have a huge range of servers throughout the world through which your web activity can be routed – the more servers, the greater the range of IP addresses you can appear to be using (and it’s handy for watching geo-restricted content from dozens of countries. )
What this does: Prevents surveillance by your internet service provider, hackers and any other entity monitoring your web connection.
However, it’s worth noting that you can still be identified through other metrics such as your “browser fingerprint” (the specific configuration on your browser such as types of fonts and extensions).
But: This doesn’t erase searches from your browser so that anyone with access to your computer (as opposed to net connection) can still view your searches. It also doesn’t protect against logging search terms when a user is signed in – if you are logged into, say, your Outlook account on Edge, Bing can still log your searches.
Protect against targeted profiling – if someone is trying to identify you through your web traffic, a VPN makes it more difficult but not impossible. For example, a hacker monitoring VPN traffic might be able to aggregate enough information about search terms made, links visited and general online behavior to build an identifying profile.
4. Use TOR browser
For a higher level of anonymity, the TOR browser encrypts and routes your web traffic – and searches – throughout a network of other TOR users, so that your search queries will appear to be originating from a variety of IP addresses (known as exit nodes). This makes your search terms extremely difficult (but not impossible! ) to link to identifying information.
Searching through Google with TOR would not result in queries being linked to a specific IP address for instance, while the large number of people using TOR and its minimal features reduces browser fingerprinting – the ability to identify a computer based on its unique browser configuration.
What this does: Prevents passive surveillance by the government and internet service providers, and prevents profiling by search engines.
But: This does not offer total anonymity from entities that might be actively trying to identify you – for example, searches for certain terms, locations or unique features could be used to build an identifying profile.
5. Use a Private Browsing window
If all you want to do is prevent someone with access to your computer from seeing your searches in your browser history (and you figure you won’t want or remember to clear your browser history regularly), you can open a private browsing window (or Incognito window on Chrome).
A private browsing window doesn’t save search queries to the browser, so they won’t appear in your history, nor in Google auto-complete the next time you or someone else uses your computer.
A private browsing window also logs you out of any signed-in accounts (you’ll remain signed in on other windows). For Google users, for example, this means you can stay signed into Gmail on your standard browsing window, then use Google search in an Incognito window without the searches being saved to your Google account (these searches would otherwise be used to personalize ads and other Google products).
Here’s how to open a private window:
Chrome: Tap the three dots in the top right and select New Incognito Window.
Edge: Tap the three horizontal dots to select New InPrivate Window
Firefox: Tap the three horizontal lines and select New Private Window
Safari: In the toolbar, tap File > New Private Window
What this does: Erase searches from your computer and browser, preventing someone with access to your computer from viewing your history.
But: This minimally protective measure won’t prevent search engines such as Google from linking search queries to your IP address and personalizing results based on past searches.
Combining your privacy tools
Searching the web anonymously is tough – not only do trackers help to provide a faster, more convenient internet experience, search terms are also an incredibly revealing insight into what people need, want and like. This data is a veritable gold mine to the plethora of advertisers, service providers and other parties wanting to target advertising and profile people – which means it’s in these parties’ interest to transact user data in exchange for their products.
No one solution can fully protect your search data – but at the same time, there are everyday scenarios where you may want search personalization, for example, in order to find useful links again.
The most effective way to search anonymously is therefore to use a combination of the techniques above, based on your reasons for anonymity.
For example, if you’re mainly concerned about viewing less biased search results and don’t want to receive targeted advertising for a particular search term, you could open a private browsing window and search with DuckDuckGo. You might even switch to Firefox with DuckDuckGo as your default search.
If you’re concerned about a more private way to search in general, then you might combine a VPN with a private browser window (where you are signed out of all your accounts), and search via DuckDuckGo. This would go a fair way to preventing advertisers as well as ISPs and governments from logging your search terms while hiding them from anyone with access to your computer, be it your spouse or a network admin.
Finally, remember to log out of all accounts when you want to search anonymously – no matter what privacy tools you are using, browsing or searching while signed in to Google, for example, instantly negates your anonymity.
[Image credit: anonymous browsing concept via BigStockPhoto]
How to Browse the Internet Anonymously | Tips to Stay Private
Click here to see a summary of this article Summary: How to Browse the Internet AnonymouslyAnonymous surfing, streaming and downloading can be difficult. Websites, companies and services can closely follow our online behavior. Do you want more online privacy and prevent people from studying your online activities? There are a few ways to protect your online privacy. A VPN can help you access the internet anonymously. When you’re connected to a VPN, your internet traffic runs through a secure connection. The VPN software encrypts all your data using encryption protocols. Your data can no longer be intercepted or read by third parties. ExpressVPN is an example of a reliable and good you like to know in what other ways you can make your browsing more anonymous? Read the full article below for six tips on how to protect your online of your online actions are not as private as you might think. These days, countless parties attempt to follow our online behavior as closely as they can. Our internet service providers, the administrators of our networks, our browser, search engines, the apps we’ve installed, social media platforms, governments, hackers and even the websites we visit all know – to a certain extent – what we’re doing online. If you don’t want your partner to find out the special birthday gift you’ve ordered, using the incognito mode will suffice. However, if you don’t want anyone to know what you do online, a simple incognito mode won’t Ways to Stay Anonymous OnlineDo you want to surf, stream or download anonymously? There are a few ways to protect your online privacy. Here are some efficient methods to stay anonymous online:Use a VPN a privacy-friendly a proxy the web with an anonymous search stall browser extensions for your your privacy ’ll go into more detail below and explain each method 1: Safe and Anonymous Browsing with a VPNUsing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a suitable way to browse the internet anonymously. When you’re connected to a VPN server, your connection is secure. The software ensures that all your online traffic is encrypted using special protocols, so your data can no longer be read by reover, your IP address stays hidden, because you automatically take on the IP address of the VPN server you’re using. An IP address is the identification number of your internet connection and can reveal your location and ultimately your identity. A VPN hides your real IP address for others; they only see the IP address of the VPN server. This way, the websites you visit won’t be able to see your own IP address and won’t be able to identify you want to surf anonymously at school or at work? A VPN will help here, too. With a VPN you’ll be able to stay anonymous whether you’re at school, at work or just on your home network. It’s also quite effective against doxing. A lot of VPN providers don’t log your activity while you use their services. This is the product they promise you: anonymous browsing. These providers offer their users guaranteed anonymity with their safe and secure VPN mbining a masked IP with a secure connection ensures VPN users that their online behavior can no longer be traced by anyone. However, not all VPN providers are as strict when it comes to making this promise. If you want to anonymize your internet connection, it’s important to look for a trustworthy and good VPN provider with a zero logs policy. A zero logs policy ensures that the VPN provider doesn’t registers any of your online activities. This way, not even the government can get a provider to hand over this information, because there’s simply nothing to give. Below we will discuss two trustworthy VPN VPN: A trustworthy giantOne example of a trustworthy VPN provider is ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN has a large amount of servers all over the world and offers strong security options. If you subscribe to ExpressVPN, you gain access to software that protects all of your devices and works for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. You can simultaneously connect to the internet with up to five devices on just one subscription. ExpressVPN is highly suitable for those who want to be able to surf, stream and download with complete VPN is very user-friendly. After getting a subscription, you can install the application and connect to a secure VPN server in just a few clicks. The app will run on the background of your device while you can browse and stream as usual. You won’t really notice anything in your everyday browsing experience, but you are far more safe and anonymous. If you want to know more about this provider, please read our full review of ExpressVPN. Very easy to use VPN Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i. e. Netflix) 3000+ servers in 94 countries Visit ExpressVPN CyberGhost: A user-friendly VPNA second well-performing VPN is CyberGhost. CyberGhost is a user-friendly VPN provider that helps you browse anonymously. They have a large number of servers all over the world, which makes it extremely easy to find a server that suits your needs. Their servers will make sure you can browse the internet without any restraints. You can even use Netflix and freely download torrents with CyberGhost. The CyberGhost app is very easy to use, and if you have trouble figuring it out, CyberGhost also has a great customer support team that can help there is a HTTPS alternative for the HTTP website you’re trying to visit, CyberGhost will make sure you are automatically redirected to the secure version of the site. This way, you can browse anonymously and safely at all times. Read our detailed review of CyberGhost to learn more about this VPN. Very user-friendly High quality for a low price Torrents and Netflix possible Visit CyberGhost Browsing the internet anonymously with a free VPNIn addition to paid VPNs, there are numerous free VPNs. A free VPN may sound attractive, but often these VPNs aren’t secure. It’s often wise to consider a paid VPN provider instead, because your private data might not always be in good hands with a free provider. Some free VPNs register the sites you visit and resell this data to advertisers. As a result, you certainly won’t be anonymous or secure stead of a free VPN, it’s better to opt for a reliable, cheap 2: Use the Right BrowserIt’s wise to go back to basics and make sure to choose a browser that helps you protect your anonymity. But which browser is the best to use in this case? Different popular browsers have very different ways of dealing with user privacy. They also have different levels of safety. In this section, we’ll be discussing several well-known browser options. And for a more thorough analysis, you can always take a look at our in-depth article on privacy-friendly away from Microsoft EdgeWhen considering online safety and privacy, we’d advise you not to use Microsoft Edge. Microsoft Edge is the official successor of Internet Explorer and still gets regular safety updates, as opposed to IE. Still, the privacy levels of this browser aren’t great. It doesn’t have any tracking protection, which other browsers do. This, and other ways in which Microsoft lacks in terms of privacy, lead us to advise you to stay away from Edge if you want to focus on protecting your Chrome: awesome browser, lacks some privacy featuresThe Chrome browser supports several pop-up blockers and other privacy-oriented browser extensions. Still, Chrome is the property of Google, which might have implications for your privacy. Google profits from having as much data on its users as possible. This data is used to show personalized advertisements and to improve Google’s search of people critique Google for the way the company handles users’ privacy. For example, it has been questioned why Chrome users are often automatically logged in to their Google or Gmail accounts. This way, Google can trace all of your browsing activity and connect it to you as a person. This information is then synchronized across all your devices. Do you use an Android smartphone with apps like Google Maps? Then Google instantly knows even more about you. If you value your privacy, there are some alternative browsers that might suit you better than ’s Safari does its job wellLately, Apple’s browser Safari has been doing really well in terms of privacy. The browser has seen the introduction of new features that stop digital fingerprinting, making it a lot harder for other parties to follow you online. It also has Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This automatically deletes first-party tracking cookies that websites place in the Safari browser after seven days. Because of this system, websites are able to track visitors for a much shorter length of time. Aside from that, Safari offers some useful extensions that improve your online privacy. We’ll get back to this zilla Firefox: the best and most well-known browser for privacyIf you ask us, Mozilla Firefox is the best ‘normal’ browser for users that value their privacy. To kick things off, Firefox has several security features, such as protection against phishing and malware. Aside from that, Firefox users automatically receive a warning whenever a website tries to install add-ons. When it comes to privacy, Firefox is a very secure choice, also because it offers useful extensions that protect users against all sorts of tracking and privacy breaches. These add-ons are, more often than not, specifically for ntrary to most other browsers, Firefox is open source. This means that everyone can check out the code that makes up Firefox’s software. Because of this transparent way of working, Mozilla couldn’t just build in tracking features even if it wanted to. Someone would notice and make a show of it, which would be awful for Mozilla’s level anonymous browsing: the Tor browserIf you really want to browse anonymously, the Tor browser could be an interesting option. Tor (The Onion Router) is an online network for encrypted and anonymous communication. Tor works pretty much the same as other browsers like Firefox, Safari and Chrome. However, unlike other browsers, Tor allows you to browse completely anonymously. The Tor network consists of thousands of servers worldwide. All data traffic that passes through it is cut up in little pieces that are subsequently encrypted and sent through several servers before ending up at its destination. This process costs time, and therefore the Tor browser can be relatively slow. But no matter how slow it is, it does make sure nobody can see what you do important side note to the use of Tor is that it only encrypts part of what you do online. Only the internet traffic that goes through the browser is protected. Services like Skype and WhatsApp access the internet without the use of a browser. Tor can’t offer you protection there. Another thing worth mentioning is that Tor provides users with access to the dark web. So be wary: surfing the dark web should be done with great care. This ‘dark part’ of the internet isn’t regulated, which means it comes with a lot of risks for your safety. For example, it’s very easy to run into malware there. Therefore, for most of us, using a VPN along with the Firefox browser is an easier, better, and more secure alternative to 3: Anonymous Browsing with a ProxyThe use of a proxy server also provides some anonymity online. When using a proxy, you send a request for information to that proxy server, which then sends it on to the right website. The website will only be able to see the IP address of the proxy server and not your own. A proxy doesn’t have the same level of encryption as a VPN does. Even though the websites you visit won’t be able to see directly who you are, your IP address and online traffic are still much easier to unravel than would be the case when using a VPN. Other parties will still be able to see what you do. The only thing keeping them from knowing your identity is the proxy’s IP. This is because proxies don’t protect or encrypt your servers are mostly seen as lighter, free alternatives to a VPN. They might suit your needs, but do keep in mind that they don’t have the same security standards as a VPN. Even so, a proxy server might suffice if your only goal is to circumvent certain geographical online 4: Use an Anonymous Search EngineThere’s also the option of using an anonymous search engine. DuckDuckGo is probably the best known anonymous search engine. Anonymous search engines such as DuckDuckGo are alternatives for Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines that like to collect and use your data. When you use DuckDuckGo, your search terms and the links you clicked aren’t traced. Moreover, the websites you visit won’t be able to see which search terms you used. However, they’ll still know that you’ve visited their page. This registration happens through your IP address. Through DuckDuckGo you can search the internet with more anonymity than a regular search engine, but it can’t offer you full anonymity or DuckGo doesn’t have the same budget and manpower as big businesses like Google. This means that the presented search result won’t be as optimized. However, some say that this is actually a good thing for those who focus on privacy. After all, DuckDuckGo shows everyone who enters the same keywords the same search results. Google, on the contrary, adjusts your results to your user profile. The inaccuracy of DuckDuckGo, hence, shows that they’re actually sticking to their promise of anonymity. Our advice is to try out DuckDuckGo to see whether you like it. A second anonymous search engine is Startpage. This is a privacy-friendly search system that draws its search results from Google, but doesn’t use tracking. We also recommend you try out this 5: Minimize Tracking with the Right Browser ExtensionsThere are many browser extensions out there that help increase your online privacy and safety. These extensions are often easy to install and use. Aside from an adblocker, a password manager and a VPN browser extension, you could also try specific add-ons and extensions that minimize ivacy Badger and GhosteryPrivacy Badger and Ghostery are browser extensions that detect and block third-party tracking cookies that are placed on your computer while you browse. Blocking these cookies keeps third parties from following you online. Did you install Privacy Badger or Ghostery and did you visit a webpage that tries to install third-party tracking cookies? Then these extensions will come into action. Good for you, bad for online marketeers, and very good for your 6: Be Wary of Big Tech Companies and Big DataFacebook is known to share its users’ personal information with advertisers. This is why women tend to get menstrual care ads on their Facebook feed while men don’t. However, Facebook takes this practice a lot further: they also track what you do when you aren’t on their site. If you’ve been looking for car insurance online, it’s very likely you’ll see a relevant ad on your Facebook feed. Facebook allows you to change this slightly in the privacy settings of your account. After you have changed these settings, they might not show selected ads anymore, but you will still see ads. Moreover, they will keep gathering information on you. Through their own services, it isn’t possible to turn off their tracking. You can only slightly tweak what comes up in your also allows you to turn off add personalization. Again, this does not mean all ads will disappear, nor will Google stop tracking your data traffic. As a rule, you can say that these big companies built on advertisement revenues won’t stop tracking us, unless we make it impossible with, for instance, a ThoughtsThere are several steps you can take in order to better protect your online safety and privacy. Do you want to browse the internet anonymously? Then these are the tips we’d like to give you:Install a VPN, such as Mozilla Firefox or the Tor a proxy server as an alternative to a an anonymous search engine, like mize tracking with the right browser extensions, such as adblockers and anti-tracking your privacy settings on social media you combine these tips, your online privacy is much better guarded already. You’ll be able to browse the internet much more anonymously. How to Browse the Internet Anonymously: Frequently Asked QuestionsDo you have a question on how to browse the internet anonymously? Check the overview below with frequently asked questions to see whether your question is listed. Click on a question to see the can I surf the internet anonymously? Combine the tips below to stay anonymous online:Use a VPN a privacy-friendly a proxy the web with an anonymous search stall browser extensions for your your privacy settings. How can I surf the internet anonymously with a vpn? Using a VPN is a good way to browse the internet anonymously. The VPN software ensures that all your online traffic is encrypted using special protocols, so your data can no longer be read by others. In addition, your IP address remains hidden, because you automatically take on the IP address of the VPN server you’re using. What is the best VPN to browse the internet anonymously? It’s important to choose a reliable VPN provider with a zero logs policy, so you can be sure that it doesn’t register any of your online VPN is an example of a reliable and solid VPN that will definitely help you surf the internet more securely and anonymously.
How To Remain Anonymous on the Internet – Security.org
We use Chrome as our browser and Google as our search engine, which means that everything we do online is tracked. That’s why, when we check out a bathing suit online, we’re inundated with bathing suit ads that follow us around like lost puppies, urging us to buy now.
The truth is, unless you make a concerted effort, you have no privacy or anonymity online. For those who want it, online anonymity is possible; however, it’s not the most straightforward process, so we broke down the steps you need to achieve total anonymity and private browsing on the web.
How To Remain Anonymous on the Internet
True online anonymity requires many changes to your digital routine, such as replacing your operating system, browser, search engine, messaging apps, and email provider. Here are the 22 steps you need to take to be anonymous online.
Use an encrypted messaging app. Instead of sending a text message to a friend on your Android, use an encrypted messaging app like Signal. With Signal, all communications have end-to-end encryption on its open-source protocol. The company can’t see your messages or calls, and there are no ads or trackers.
Use an encrypted browser. Google is notorious for its ample data collection. Instead of using Chrome or another browser from a large tech company, use Tor, a secure browser that encrypts your IP address and web activity three times. However, Tor doesn’t encrypt any other web apps you use, which is why you need a VPN as well. What is a VPN, you ask?
Use a VPN. “VPN” stands for “virtual private network, ” and, unlike Tor, VPNs encrypt all web traffic from browsers and other web apps. Aside from hiding your IP address, VPNs hide your browsing history so your internet service provider (ISP) can’t see any of your online activity. The best part? You can set up a VPN in only a few minutes; check out our VPN how to pages for more information.
Use secure email services. Since we’re so deeply entrenched in the Google ecosystem, we use Gmail as our personal email provider. While we love its ease of use, we don’t love that Google keeps all of our private emails on its servers. However, there are secure options like ProtonMail, the same company that brought us ProtonVPN. ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, a nonmember of the surveillance alliance Five Eyes, so the company can’t be forced to give the government customer data. Rather, all email has end-to-end encryption with open source code, and the service is free for Android, iOS, and web users. 1
Use a temporary email. Don’t want a company emailing you a newsletter daily? Use a temporary email address. Services like Temp Mail generate throwaway email addresses for free. 2
Use encrypted storage. Back on the Google train, we store all of our documents, photos, and files in Google Drive, which certainly isn’t a good choice in terms of privacy. However, some cloud storage providers utilize end-to-end encryption, like Sync, Tresorit, and ProtonDrive, a cousin to ProtonMail and ProtonVPN.
Don’t post PII. While it’s fun to share your life online, make sure you’re not sharing any personally identifiable information like your address, phone number, or Social Security number. Sharing PII could lead to identity theft, especially if you haven’t already set up an identity theft protection service.
Check app permissions. We’re all guilty of mindlessly accepting an app’s terms and conditions, but before you do, see what permissions the app has. For example, does it always need to know your location, or can you disable this feature? Most apps ask for as many permissions as possible, so it’s up to you to keep them in check.
Read privacy policies. Similarly, check what data a website or app collects, shares, and/or sells before you use it. Many companies sell users’ personal information to third parties for marketing and advertising purposes, which is not conducive to privacy, let alone anonymity.
Note: In our privacy guide, we examined the privacy policies of over 100 home and digital security companies, rating each out of 10. Read it to find out just how “secure” these products and services really are!
Use ad blockers. Adware is the software that places ads across your computer, phone, or tablet, but even if you don’t have adware, most websites and apps have some form of advertising, which can get annoying. Aside from removing adware, you can use an ad blocker like AdBlock or Adblock Plus.
Don’t use voice assistants. Voice assistants make for convenient home automation in your smart home. However, they’re notoriously bad for privacy. Amazon employees have admitted to listening to Alexa recordings3, for example, and there was a hidden, undisclosed microphone in the Google Assistant-compatible Nest Secure security system4. Your best bet is to steer clear of voice assistants and stick to controlling your smart lights, smart garage, smart locks, and other IoT devices manually through your app.
Stay off social media. In our research on social media and parenting, we found that more than three-quarters of parents share stories, images, or videos of their kids on social media. Worse, over 80 percent of these parents use their children’s real names in these posts. Not only does this put their kids at risk of child identity theft, but social media companies keep this data for the long haul. Your best bet for privacy is to stay off social media completely.
Use a proxy. When it comes to VPN vs. proxy servers, proxy servers are better for on-the-go networks that you’ll only be on once. Unlike VPNs, proxy servers encrypt only your device’s IP address, not your web traffic, making them less secure (but often free).
Check for HTTPS. If possible, only go on websites whose URLs start with “HTTPS” rather than “HTTP. ” HTTPS, which stands for “hypertext transfer protocol secure, ” uses a secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt all of the communication between your browser and the websites you visit, while HTTP does not. 5
Disable cookies. Remember when we mentioned those ads that follow you around the internet like a stalker ex-boyfriend? Cookies are the data about your online activities that shape targeted ads; sometimes they’re anonymized and aggregated, but sometimes they’re not. Here’s how to disable cookies on the most popular web browsers (if you’re still using them, that is):Chrome
Go to Settings.
Click “Content Settings. ”
Click “Cookies and Other Site Data. ”
Select “Block All Cookies. ”
Toggle on “Clear Cookies and Site Data When You Quit Chrome. ”
Click “Menu. ”
Click “Preferences. ”
Click “Cookies and Site Data. ”
Check off where it says “Delete Cookies and Site Data When Firefox Is Closed. ”
Click “Privacy and Services. ”
Click “Clear Browsing Data on Close. ”
Check off what you want to be deleted when you close your browser.
Go to your Settings.
Click “Privacy and Security. ”
Toggle on “Clear Cookies and Site Data When You Quit Opera. ”
Go to Preferences.
Click “General. ”
Click “Remote History Items After One Day. ”
Go to Privacy.
Check off “Block All Cookies. ”
Don’t use Google. We’ll say it again: Google tracks everything you search online, which can be very personal information. Instead of Googling, browse the web with a search engine like DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t harvest your personal information to create targeted ads. Rather, the service creates ads based on what you search, and all search data is anonymized, as are IP addresses. 6
Use a password manager. If you’re using the same password for every account, you’re making the goal of online anonymity very hard for yourself. Instead, create a unique and secure password for all of your online accounts. Get password security tips here.
Use a secure operating system. If your online anonymity is a building, then your operating system is the foundation. Even with secure email servers, browsers, search engines, and the like, if you’re using an operating system from a major tech company, your data could still be logged. In contrast, an open-source operating system like Linux walls off each user. Tails and Whonix are some other secure OS options.
Use anonymous cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is an increasingly popular payment method, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not always anonymous. With Bitcoin, for example, all payments are completely transparent. If you want to make anonymous payments, use a cryptocurrency like Monero, which hides the sender, receiver, and amount sent using three different privacy technologies. 7
Download the NoScript or Ghostery browser add-on from the Firefox Browser Add-ons site.
In Microsoft Edge DevTools, select Control, Shift, and P on Windows or Linux, or Command, Shift, and P on macOS.
Safari (6. 1 and later)
Click “Security. ”
Avoid spam. Spam emails may be phishing attempts to get your PII, so don’t click on any unfamiliar messages, emails, or websites.
Use a file shredder. When you delete a file, is it really deleted? Often, the answer is no. To delete your files permanently, use a virtual file shredder to rewrite files’ binary data multiple times, making them irreparable. File Shredder, for example, is a free desktop app that lets you choose from five shredding algorithms to destroy files completely. 9
Anonymity vs. Privacy: What’s the Difference?
Many people use the terms “anonymity” and “privacy” interchangeably, but they’re actually very different. Privacy is the ability to keep things to yourself by choice, while anonymity means that you want people to see what you do, just not your identity. For example, while internet users may want privacy for their web searches, whistleblowers want anonymity, meaning their identities are protected but their information is still shared. 10 Learn how whistleblowers can protect themselves while still relaying important information.
Is Incognito Mode Anonymous?
Maybe we’re overcomplicating things. After all, our Chrome browser has an incognito mode; isn’t that sufficient to protect our privacy online? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Unlike a VPN, incognito mode isn’t anonymous. All it does is wipe your history and cache after you close the browser so the next person on your device can’t see what you did online. However, your ISP can still see everything you do online plus your device’s IP address. And unlike VPN servers, incognito mode won’t change your IP address or help you watch Netflix in another country, so it is a poor solution for online privacy.
Can There Really Be Anonymity Online?
Although it’s hotly debated, we believe that true anonymity is possible on the internet. However, it takes a lot of effort, from using new browsers, operating systems, and messaging apps to paying only with anonymous cryptocurrency. If you’re willing to put in the work, yes, you can use the internet privately on any device.
The Consequences of No Online Privacy
Privacy is a fundamental human right, but online privacy isn’t guaranteed; you have to work for it. The consequences of a lack of privacy can be dire, including the following.
Identity theft: Sharing too much personal information can lead to identity theft, which could mean financial losses, difficulty getting loans, blows to your credit score, etc.
Data collection: Large tech companies harvesting a ton of personal data from millions of people has its consequences. Need we mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018?
Tracking: Companies use customers’ data to track them online, showing them targeted advertisements designed to squeeze every last dollar out of them.
More Digital Privacy Research
We’ve researched digital privacy topics such as VPNs and how to delete your personal information from Google. Check it all out below.
Data Privacy Guide
Data Security Statistics
How To Delete Personal Information From Google
The internet was created to be a place where people could search for information freely, without fear of repercussions. However, with the monetization of our attention comes a total lack of privacy, as we’re surveilled online constantly. That being said, you can have complete anonymity online — if you’re willing to work for it in 22 steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
Online privacy is such a hot topic nowadays that we get many questions from readers looking to stay anonymous online. If we haven’t answered your questions yet, keep reading.
Is it possible to be anonymous on the internet?
It is possible to be anonymous on the internet. However, you have to use a secure browser, search engine, email account, and cloud storage. You’ll also need to connect to a VPN, disable cookies, and change other settings, so while online anonymity is possible, it’s a bit labor-intensive to set up initially.
How can I hide my identity online completely?
Follow these steps to hide your identity online completely:
Connect to a VPN, which will hide your IP address and browsing history.
Use Tor as your browser, which hides your IP address and your web activity.
Use a secure email provider like ProtonMail, which provides end-to-end encryption.
Use encrypted cloud storage like ProtonDrive.
Don’t post any of your PII online.
Check app permission and read privacy policies.
Disable cookies and ads.
Don’t use social media.
Instead of searching on Google, use DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t track your searches or store your IP addresses.
Use a secure operating system like Linux.
Use anonymous currency like Monero.
Don’t click on spam.
Delete your files permanently using a virtual file shredder like File Shredder.
How do I stay anonymous on Wi-Fi?
To stay anonymous on Wi-Fi, connect to a VPN, which will hide your web activity and your device’s IP address.
How can I browse the internet without anyone knowing?
To browse the internet without anyone knowing, connect to a VPN. It will hide what you do online as well as the IP address of your device.
Frequently Asked Questions about search the internet anonymously
How do I browse the Internet completely anonymously?
Six Ways to Stay Anonymous OnlineUse a VPN connection.Choose a privacy-friendly browser.Use a proxy server.Search the web with an anonymous search engine.Install browser extensions for your privacy.Manage your privacy settings.
Can you use the Internet anonymously?
It is possible to be anonymous on the internet. However, you have to use a secure browser, search engine, email account, and cloud storage. You’ll also need to connect to a VPN, disable cookies, and change other settings, so while online anonymity is possible, it’s a bit labor-intensive to set up initially.Aug 10, 2021