10 Best Ways to Hide Your Identity Online

Wanting to hide online? Here's how to do it

Hiding your identity while using the internet means that you're not leaving behind traces of who you are. You're able to enjoy the web like you normally would, but you're also able to take precautions to ensure that your identity won't be so easily compromised.

While the best solution to online anonymity is to disconnect from the internet altogether, that's quite unrealistic for most of us. Instead, there are several ways to cover your tracks and hide your online identity, and they're all absolutely free and relatively easy for anyone to work into their daily life.

Below are several tips anyone can follow to hide what you search for, keep your personal information off of the web, mask your IP address, and more.

Why Is Hiding Your Identity Important?

It's far too easy for our personal details to leak on the internet, either via hackers, companies selling the information, or some other dishonorable method. Securing your identity as you use the web helps keep your personal details at a minimum so that you don't have to worry so much about identity theft, harassment, privacy intrusion, spam, etc.

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Anonymous group of people illustration

The best way to hide online is to browse the web in a way that hides your identity. If your real information isn't being exposed to the web as you use it, then it's a lot less likely that someone will get your IP address, find out where you live, know that you are the one searching, target you with ads on your other devices, etc.

There are numerous ways to do this, such as using an anonymous proxy server and connecting to a VPN before using the internet.

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Delete Your Personal Information From the Web

Illustration of profiles of people

It's hard to hide who you are online when your personal details are already out there! People search engines provide an easy way for anyone to find your phone number, home address, email address, school history, relatives, age, full name, etc.

Although you can't remove your information for good because it's all in the public domain on a variety of websites, and continually gets updated, you can do your best to delete what's out there right now by following the link below (don't worry, it's free).

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Mobile search engine illustration

Your identity isn't just accessible through the internet; anyone with access to your physical device and web browser might be able to see your web search history, the sites you frequent, your list of bookmarks, the user accounts you have, and even your passwords.

If you don't want this information available, you have to make it a habit to either clear your browser's history and cookies or use the browser's private mode. Securing your computer with a password is helpful in this case, too, as well as encrypting your whole computer.

Another place you can keep your searches private is online. If you search for things as part of a larger service, such as Google Search, your searches are being tracked and logged, but you can still delete them. Learn how to clear your Google Search history for help.

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Email and envelope illustration

Every time you sign up for a user account on a new website, you have to provide details that usually include your email address. If you want to really stay private online, you should provide an email account that isn't tied to your real identity.

There are two clear benefits to doing this: any spam that gets sent through that new account is delivered to a specified email address and not your "primary" one; and should the account be hacked, your other accounts won't also be compromised because you're using different email addresses for those.

There are several security and privacy minded email services that are great for this, but you can also sign up with a temporary email account that expires shortly after you use it or just use a second (or third, etc.) standard email service.

Some email providers act as a middleman between you and whoever it is you're emailing. You can send and receive emails using your primary email account without ever revealing it to recipients. The makers of the private search engine DuckDuckGo offer this kind of email service through their app.

An alternative to using a second email account is to use a service that lets you borrow other people's account details. BugMeNot is the best example of this, where you can search for a site to see the username and passwords users have submitted.

Providing false personal details isn't always legal, so make sure you abide by what the signup form calls for. If you have to divulge your real name and address for a bank registration form, for example, or a government related service, be sure to do so. Using an alternative email account, though, is completely legal.

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Switch to an Encrypted Messaging App

ones and zeros in front of a masked person with a smartphone

Gerd Altmann / Pixabay 

Encrypted messaging apps ensure that only you and the recipient can view messages you've exchanged with each other. While there are loads of messaging apps out there, not all of them provide end-to-end encryption. Signal and WhatsApp are examples of encrypted messaging apps.

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Avoid Giving Out Your Real Payment Details

Online payment illustration

Another important component to hiding yourself online is avoiding using your real payment information when buying things or paying people. If you still need to spend money but you want to protect your privacy, there are various ways to do it:

  • Use a virtual debit card service like Privacy, which lets you share payment details that aren't directly tied to you.
  • Send cryptocurrency instead of "real" money.
  • Buy a gift card or prepaid card, and then share those details instead of your real number.
  • Use a mobile payment app so that you don't have to share your bank account number or card details.
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Ladybugs on secure laptop illustration

One of the easiest ways hackers track you online is through malicious software that can monitor what you're doing. These apps are called spyware because they're spying on you; they can take everything from your web search history and passwords to photos, files, and other personal details.

There are lots of free apps that can remove spyware from your computer. If you suspect an infection, or you want to minimize your chances of one in the future, you should install and run an anti-spyware app.

Another way to prevent spyware is to just be careful what you're downloading. While it's true that you can't perfect this without completely refraining from downloading altogether, you can minimize the likelihood of getting spyware by learning how to safely download files from the internet.

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Use RSS to Hide Your Tracks

RSS logo on black background

Instead of bouncing all over the web to visit your favorite sites, which can result in ads following you around, you can hide your tracks a bit better by using RSS feeds to monitor the web pages you like to visit.

When you connect to a website with an RSS feed, you can have updates from that site emailed to you or have them pop up in your RSS reader program. At no point do you have to open any web pages, log in, or leave a trace of what you're viewing.

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Social media terms

Facebook, the world's most popular social networking website, seems to make changes to its privacy policy often, and this results in new settings that are difficult to keep track of, or sometimes even fewer options than what you used to have.

Either way, the settings are hard to keep under control, and not knowing what you're allowing can potentially compromise your safety.

Learn how to hide on Facebook or what to do to make Facebook private. Also, learn how to get a grasp of the Facebook privacy settings so you can make the changes you want to.

You might even prefer to abandon the traditional social media sites and opt instead for so-called anonymous social networking apps.

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Log Out of Websites When You're Done

Login form with large blue fingerprint

This is of utmost importance when using a computer that other people can access when you're done, but it's equally important at home or school if you want extra privacy.

The task is simple: after you're finished with a website you're logged in to—like your bank account, social media page, email—just log out.

If you stay logged in, you're not really hiding anything. Anyone else who uses the computer after you will be able to see not only who used the computer, but also whatever it is that your account reveals. This might mean they'd find all your emails, be able to post things to your social networks, reset your passwords, send messages pretending to be you, etc.

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