Privacy on the internet seems to be becoming an increasingly rare commodity. There are many different parties today that closely follow our online behavior . Our internet provider, network administrator, browser, search engine, installed apps, social media platforms, governments and hackers and websites visited can, to a certain extent, follow our online behavior. Do you want to be able to surf, stream or download in complete anonymity? Then there are various options to better protect your online privacy. In this article we present some methods and tips for anonymous internet use and we discuss how effective they are.
Tip 1. Select a suitable browser
It is wise to start with the basics: which browser can you use best? There are major differences in how the different browsers handle the privacy of their users. There are also differences in how secure each browser is. We briefly discuss some well-known browser options below.
Stay away from Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge
For security and privacy reasons, we advise against using Microsoft’s browsers (Internet Explorer and Edge). Internet Explorer will no longer receive updates in 2019, which makes this browser very vulnerable and exposes users to various risks, such as cyber crime . Microsoft Edge is the successor to Internet Explorer and luckily does get security updates. Yet the privacy of this browser is bad. For example, there is no form of tracking protection, which some other browsers do. That is why we advise you to stay away from IE and Edge.
Google Chrome: you don’t have to go to Google for privacy
Although the Chrome browser supports the necessary pop-up blockers and privacy-oriented browser extensions, the fact remains that Chrome is owned by Google. Google benefits from collecting as much data as possible from users. This data can be used to show targeted advertisements and to further improve Google’s search engine. From a privacy perspective, for example, there is criticism that Chrome users are often automatically logged in with their Google or Gmail accounts. This allows Google to follow all your steps and link them to you as a person. This information is then also synchronized on all your devices. If you use an Android smartphone and apps such as Google Maps, Google knows even more about you. Do you find privacy a crucial good? Then Chrome is probably not the best choice.
Apple’s Safari scores well
Safari has recently scored well when it comes to privacy. For example, features have been introduced in the browser that prevent digital fingerprinting. Intelligent Tracking Prevention is also on the way. This latest update should ensure that Apple automatically removes the first-party tracking cookies placed by sites in the Safari browser after 7 days. This allows websites to track visitors for a much shorter time. In addition, there are handy extensions for Safari that improve your online privacy. We will come back to this later.
Mozilla Firefox: the best known browser for privacy
Mozilla Firefox is in our opinion the best ‘normal’ browser for the privacy-loving user. To start with, Firefox has the necessary security features, such as phishing and malware protection. Firefox also warns users when a website tries to install add-ons. With regard to privacy, Firefox is a very robust choice, partly because excellent addons and extensions have been developed that protect a user against all kinds of tracking and privacy violation. These addons are often specific to Firefox.
Moreover, unlike most other browsers, Firefox is open source. This means that anyone can investigate the Firefox code. This transparency ensures that Mozilla cannot build in certain tracking features unnoticed.
Next level anonymous browsing: the Tor browser
If you really want to browse anonymously, then the Tor browser is an interesting option. Tor(an acronym for The Onion Router) is an online network for encrypted and anonymous communication. In principle, Tor is an internet browser just like Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Unlike with normal browsers, however, you automatically surf anonymously with Tor. The Tor network consists of many thousands of servers worldwide. All Tor’s data traffic is fragmented (in small pieces) and sent encrypted by various servers before it reaches the recipient. This means that the Tor browser is relatively slow, because all data has to go through an entire network of servers where a continuous process of encryption takes place. This takes time, but the fragmentation and encryption of the data also ensures that others cannot trace who sent certain data or where this data comes from.
Unlike normal browsers, Tor gives users access to the dark web . Surfing the dark web requires caution, as it is a part of the internet that is not regulated. This entails substantial safety risks. For most people, using Mozilla Firefox or Safari in combination with a VPN is therefore an easier, better and safer solution for staying anonymous online than using Tor.
Tip 2. Use the internet securely and anonymously with a VPN
A VPN is extremely suitable if you want to access the internet anonymously. When you are connected to a VPN, this means that your internet traffic runs through a secure connection. The VPN software encrypts all your data through encryption protocols, so that this data can no longer be intercepted or read by third parties.
In addition, your IP address is hidden because you assume the IP address of the VPN server. Your IP address can be seen as your digital fingerprint on the internet: an online identification code with which you can be recognized. With a VPN, the sites you visit no longer see your own IP address, but the meaningless IP address of the VPN server.
Many VPN providers do not keep track of what you do on the internet through their connection. This is the product they deliver: anonymous internet. With their secure VPN connection, these providers offer their users an anonymity guarantee.
The combination of a masked IP address and a secure connection ensures that the internet behavior of a VPN user can no longer be traced. In addition, it is important to opt for a reliable and high-quality VPN servicewith a no-logs policy. This means that the VPN provider does not store any information about your internet behavior. It is often wise to consider a paid VPN provider, because your private data is not always in good hands with a free VPN provider .
ExpressVPN: a reliable VPN provider
An example of a reliable, solid VPN provider is ExpressVPN. This provider has more than 2000 VPN servers around the world and offers strong security options. By taking out a subscription with ExpressVPN you can immediately protect all your devices, because ExpressVPN is suitable for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. In addition, it is permitted to be connected to three different devices at the same time on one subscription. ExpressVPN is a very suitable choice for people who want to surf, stream and download safely and anonymously.
ExpressVPN works very easily. After you have taken out a subscription, install the ExpressVPN application on your devices. With a few clicks you are then connected to a secure VPN server. The application runs in the background and you can use the internet as usual, only you are now secure and anonymous. View our full ExpressVPN review if you want to know more about this.ExpressVPN
Tip 3. Use the internet anonymously with a proxy server
Anonymous internet is also possible with a proxy server . As a user you request internet data from the proxy server, and from the proxy server your request is forwarded to the relevant website. The websites for which you request information usually only see the IP address of the proxy server. A proxy connection does not have the encryption and security of a VPN. Even though the websites you visit do not immediately see who you are, your IP address and data traffic are easier to find than with a VPN. Your connection is not secured.
A proxy server can be seen as a lighter, often free alternative to a VPN for surfing anonymously. Unfortunately, it therefore does not offer the same security guarantees as a VPN.
Tip 4. Use an anonymous search engine
There are also search engines that offer anonymity, but to a limited extent. For example, with a search engine such as DuckDuckGo , the websites you visit do not know which search terms you have used, but they still record that you have visited them. This registration is done via the IP address . DuckDuckGo offers extra privacy compared to ‘regular’ search engines, but cannot guarantee complete anonymity.
In addition, DuckDuckGo does not have the same budget and manpower as large companies such as Google. This means that the presented search results are also less well optimized than with other popular search engines. According to privacy enthusiasts, this also has advantages; DuckDuckGo shows everyone the same search results while Google matches these results to your user profile. Our advice is to give DuckDuckGo a try and see if you like it.
Another alternative to DuckDuckGo is Startpage ; a privacy-friendly search engine that simply pulls its search results from Google, but without the tracking. Recommended.
Tip 5. Minimize tracking with the right browser extensions
There are nowadays many browser extensions that help you improve your privacy and security on the internet. We have even written a special article about it. These extensions are usually very easy to install and easy to use in everyday life. In addition to an ad blocker , a password manager and a VPN browser extension, you can also think of specific add-ons and extensions that minimize tracking.
Privacy Badger and Ghostery
Privacy Badger and Ghostery are browser extensions that detect and block third-party tracking cookies that are placed on your computer while surfing. If you block these cookies, external parties will be less able to follow you online. Have you installed Privacy Badger and Ghostery and are you visiting a site that is trying to install third-party tracking cookies? Then these extensions intervene automatically. Very handy for you, very annoying for online advertisers.
There are indeed steps that (partially) protect your privacy on the internet. Would you like to go on the internet anonymously? Then these are the tips we want to give you:
- Use Mozilla Firefox or the Tor browser
- Use a VPN
- Use an anonymous search engine
- Minimize tracking with the right browser extensions
Especially by combining the above points, your online privacy is already much better protected and you can browse anonymously. The use of a proxy server is also an option, but in principle unnecessary if you are already using a VPN (which is a better alternative).