Whenever you go online, you unwittingly reveal information about yourself. Here are a few ways you can conceal your identity when you are online.
1. Use your browser’s privacy mode
Ever since Apple incorporated private browsing into Safari in 2005, other web browsers have taken note and developed their own systems of letting you surf the net incognito. By choosing to go online privately, you tell your browser to refrain from keeping a log of the pages you view, the terms you search for, the programs you download and the information you enter into forms. Your temporary internet files and cookies won’t be retained either, which makes private browsing useful for accessing the web in internet cafe or on someone else’s computer, without compromising security. Here is how you can activate privacy mode in the popular browsers.
Firefox – Tools/Start Private Browsing
Internet Explorer – Tools/InPrivate Browsing
Chrome – Menu/New Incognito Window
Safari – Edit/Private Browsing
Opera hasn’t introduced the feature yet. Internet Explorer also offers InPrivate Filtering (Tools/InPrivate Filtering), which you can use to stop information about the sites you visit being sent to certain content providers.
2. Go through a proxy server
If you want absolute privacy, you can’t rely on your browser settings alone because privacy modes can’t prevent your internet service provider or your boss from tacking your online activities. One way you can shielf this information is to use a proxy server, such as Proxify or Anonymouse. The former allows a wealth of options to conceal your identity at varying degrees. For example, you can opt to allow cookies so that you’ll be able to log into sites that require them, such as your online banking service.
Proxy servers work by changing your IP (Internet Protocol) address from the one assigned to your computer to a randomly generated number. This layer of protection can confuse a website so that it thinks you’re sitting in Belgium when you’re actually tapping away in Mumbai. The upshot is that, because sites (and advertisers) aren’t keeping a track of your real PC’s web activities, your identity is concealed and you remain anonymous.
3. Disguise your browser
Perhaps you fancy indulging in some sneaky browsing without attracting attention from people around you. Say you’re at work and supposed to be preparing spreadsheets when you really want to catch up with last night’s TV via BBC iPlayer.
By using a program called Double Vision, you can sit the web within the spreadsheet program (or whatever you’re meant to be working on) and then set a transparency level so you can browse sites and watch videos almost invisibly.
What’s more, you can continue working while surfing and use a simple keyboard shortcut to hide the browser window if you see your boss heading towards your desk.
4. Hide your browser
Even when you minimise your browser, it remains in the Taskbar, which means people can easily call it back up to find out which site you’re looking at. To shrink your browser to the System Tray on your PC rather than the Taskbar, try Stealth Browser. Cleverly, this uses the standard icon for Local Area Connection to represent your browser, and gives no hint of what it really is. You can simply double- click the icon to restore the browser.
A similar tool is Hide My Browser Free, which lets you easily hide or show browser windows by pressing hotkeys on your keyboard or with a mouse-click.
5. Log into sites automatically
Whether you’re not keen on sharing your personal information or don’t want your Inbox filling up with spam, there are times when you won’t want to use your real name when signing up with a website. BugMeNot is a free service that lets you surf anonymously by giving you a username and password for sites that require registration.
You just enter the address of the website you want to access into the box on BugMeNot’s homepage and, in most cases, login details will be provided that you can copy and paste into the relevant registration fields.
6. Create a false identity
If BugMeNot can’t produce an automatic login and password for you (Amazon and eBay, for example, have barred the system), you can still avoid registering with your real details. The problem is that some clever websites know if you are entering false details. In such cases, try the Fake Name Generator which randomly generates names, towns and cities, counties and postcodes together with fake mobile numbers and even occupation. Use this information to register and your privacy remains intact.
7. Stay anonymous anywhere
If you want to protect your identity when surfing the web on computers other than your own, try XeroBank’s xB browser, which is designed to run from a portable media device. It used to be called Torpark and is effective in leaving no tracks behind in your browser or PC. When run from a USB stick, it offers you full protection.
8. Keep web bugs at bay
Lots of companies, particularly advertisers, are interested in what you do online, but you can keep this information private. The new version of Firefox add-on Ghostery not only shows you which services are tracking you online, but also lets you block specific ‘web bugs’ (hidden scripts that track who is viewing the page).
Once installed, click the Ghostery icon at the bottom of the browser window and choose Options. Click the Blocking tab and select ‘Enable web blocking’; then choose the bugs you want to block from the list.