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The internet has opened the entire world to untapped opportunities. It has made communication and trade cross borders seamlessly and nearly effortlessly —but also crossing the border are some unwelcome side effects.
The ease with which information can be accessed and stolen has increased exponentially, raising an undeniable need for online anonymity. It is much easier than it might initially sound, so let’s get to it.
How To Stay Anonymous Online
The following are some ways the everyday internet user can successfully stay anonymous and online simultaneously. These options range from necessary self-diligence to using software to route your presence through several servers worldwide.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
While a VPN does not guarantee 100% anonymity, it is a powerful tool for concealing your IP address and encrypting the information you send online. It takes your traffic through servers in different regions, making it difficult for anyone to see what you do online or trace your online activities to your physical location.
You can also stay anonymous online by using cryptocurrencies to make online payments or transactions. Cryptocurrencies provide a higher degree of privacy than traditional financial transactions, allowing you to make purchases without revealing your identity.
When you pay with crypto, you don’t have to provide personal information to other parties before you can receive payment and vice versa. For example, it allows anonymous playing as an option for those who wish to gamble at online casinos without sharing their ID with the operators. This can be useful in locations where fiat currency gambling is not permitted.
Tor stands for The Onion Router, and just like an onion, it masks your online presence with layer upon layer of volunteer-operated servers. This makes it near impossible for anyone to trace your digital footsteps. The Tor Browser is especially handy when handling sensitive information—no wonder it is the go-to for activists and whistleblowers to communicate anonymously globally.
Use Encrypted Messaging Apps
You should use encrypted messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp to protect your conversations from being eavesdropped by other parties. These apps use end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only you and the recipient can read the messages.
Safe Browsing Habits
Practicing safe browsing habits is also a great way to maintain online anonymity. This includes regularly clearing your browser’s cookies and cache and disabling tracking features. These good browsing habits will help to reduce your footprint on the internet, making it less likely for you to be tracked or your information hacked.
Pseudonyms and Aliases
When creating online accounts, particularly social media accounts, a great way to remain anonymous is to use pseudonyms or aliases instead of your real name. This can make it more challenging for random people to connect with you online. This is also a simple yet effective option for online gamers to maintain anonymity when playing online. Using a gamer tag instead of your real name prevents anyone from identifying you or where you’re from. Although gaming is meant to be fun, not all players are who they say they are, and could be out to ruin the game, so staying anonymous will ensure you can play safely and enjoy the game.
Finally, maintaining online anonymity requires adequate education and awareness. Ensure you are updated with the latest online privacy and anonymity developments, learn about new threats, and adopt these practices accordingly. Keep an eye out for software updates on your mobile, computer, and other devices you use to access the internet.
Why Is It Important to Remain Anonymous Online?
Is it worth it to take all the steps listed above to stay anonymous online? While not every measure above might be necessary for the average person, there are many reasons why it can be worth your while:
Avoiding Targeted Advertising
Have you ever searched for a product online and found yourself seeing ads popping up everywhere you go on the internet as if someone peeked into your recent search history? This is what happens when you fall victim to targeted advertising. It relies on tracking your online behavior and search preferences. By maintaining reasonable levels of anonymity, you can minimize the extent to which advertisers can collect and use your data, ensuring an online experience free from targeted ads.
Protecting Your Identity
As long as you use the internet, you leave a digital footprint. Without proper precautions, your personal information is at risk of being easily accessed and exploited for malicious intent. Staying anonymous helps you maintain control over what you disclose and to whom. This way, you can keep your personal life private, allowing you to reduce the risk of cyberstalking.
Shielding Against Cyberbullying and Harassment
The internet can be toxic, with trolls and cyberbullies sharing the same space with people who want to have fun and stay informed. Sometimes, staying away from such internet trolls is not enough protection, and you might need to consider online anonymity so you do not find yourself targeted.
Preventing Data Breaches
Data breaches have reached an all-time high, with over 100 million accounts leaked in the second quarter of 2023. Cybercriminals these days can and do steal sensitive and personal information from individuals and organizations with almost no care, usually leaving most people with little to no recourse. All the more reason to maintain anonymity online, as it reduces the chances of your data falling into the hands of data thieves.
Avoiding Geographical Restrictions
Several countries impose restrictions on internet use and content access. Suppose you live in a country with strict internet regulations and need to access geographically inaccessible information. In that case, you need to browse the internet anonymously, free from restrictions. You can bypass these restrictions and access the internet by staying anonymous online through VPNs, for example.