How to Avoid Getting Tracked While You're Online

Conceal your digital identity with these tools and techniques

Woman sitting at table using laptop

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Google, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), government agencies, and other entities track your online habits in today's computing environment. Here's a list of tools and techniques that will preserve your privacy and minimize intrusions.

Share and Download Files Anonymously

If your objective is to download and upload files anonymously, use a service that masks your computer's internet protocol (IP) address. These services charge a small monthly fee or require you to purchase software, and the bandwidth allotments are usually more than adequate.

Such services include Anonymizer.com and The Cloak. Mute Anonymity is a non-profit project dedicated to peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading.

Surf and Email Anonymously

If retribution for your political ideals or the controls of an oppressive government in your country is a concern, free proxy and VPN servers can help. A more reliable choice to address these issues, however, is a two-part freeware solution by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) which protects the democratic freedoms of private citizens. This platform is made up of Tor and Privoxy, which you install on your computer. Together, they scramble and conceal your online identity as a free public service, partly by hiding your computer's IP address.

Tor is a network of web servers that is run by the EFF and volunteer server administrators. Privoxy is the software needed to connect to this Tor network.

Tor Anonymous Browsing
Melanie Pinola

Tor and Privoxy conceal your identity by bouncing your signal around several internet servers called Tor onion routers. Much as Hollywood spy movies depict a telephone call being routed around dozens of false phone locations, so is your online identity when masked by these special Tor servers. Your true IP address is hidden when you surf, email, and download through the Tor onion network.

Limits of Privoxy and Tor

Privoxy and Tor do not guarantee anonymity. Plus, they don't conceal online activities in government and some corporate computing environments. As a start, however, Tor and Privoxy reduce exposure to surveillance and make you difficult to track. If this is important to you, this solution may be worth the slight slowdown in connection speed.

The Tor Network protects private citizens' personal privacy, especially for freedom of speech, conscience, and democracy. Tor doesn't enable the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. Don't use the Tor-Privoxy system as a P2P downloading avenue, doing so puts you at risk of prosecution.