How To Preserve Your Online Anonymity

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Protect your online anonymity.

Safeguarding personal information and preserving online privacy and anonymity continue to be major concerns for individuals and businesses alike. Awareness of cybersecurity is on the rise as DDoS attacks escalate and new revelations from Edward Snowden trickle down to the media. Some may feel that all this buzz about online anonymity is nothing more than digital paranoia; but when it comes to securing electronic communications and fortifying online profiles it’s riskier to ignore the warnings than proactively take precautions.

Most online and digital-based activity can be confined to four major areas: web search, email, texting and mobile. Bolstering efforts around online anonymity across these services can help with peace of mind and preservation of your data and identity.

Anonymous web search

Online anonymity and web search.

It’s common knowledge that all three major search engines log your search queries and activity. True, you can adjust settings to attempt to prevent tracking, but it’s tough to shake that unsettling feeling knowing that the NSA’s PRISM program was pulling Google since January 2009.

Lucky for you there are a couple of options with better privacy and anonymity solutions than other well known search engines. First up is the search engine DuckDuckGo. If you’ve got the Google betrayal blues then consider using DuckDuckGo. In light of recent NSA surveillance revelations DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg has stated that consumers come first and your information will be tossed out completely.

There’s also Tor (The Onion Router), which is a free, non-profit project that supposedly provides anonymous search through its network of routers. Tor uses a complex and encrypted system to make your search queries extremely difficult, if not impossible to track. More consumers are turning toward Tor for this reason despite its often-cited lag time in presenting users with queries. A small price to pay for enhanced cyber browsing.

Encrypt your email

Encrypt email for online anonymity.

Guess what? There’s a pretty good chance that the NSA is reading your email according to The Guardian’s recent findings surrounding warrantless searches conducted on American communications. A suggested solution for email encryption is Guerrilla Mail. This is a free service that creates temporary, disposable email addresses for you to use and when you use it in combination with Tor you’ve got a cybersecure homerun (three cheers for anonymity)!

Scramble your texts

Scramble texts for online anonymity.

There are many different types of secure texting clients that you can experiment with. Search for text message clients that support the OTR (off the record) protocol. OTR makes it so your conversations can’t be logged or intercepted by anyone or anything. Two of the more popular OTR clients are Adium for Macintosh, Pidgin for Windows and ChatSecure for Android.

Even more good news! Tor is getting close to launching its own anonymous instant messaging service, Tor Instant Messaging Bundle (TIMB), which is built on the open-source Instantbird messenger client. TIMB is slated to launch in mid-July.

Secure your mobile device

Secure your mobile device for online anonymity.

By far, mobile devices have proven to be the most difficult as far as anonymity is concerned. This is can be attributed to general availability of secure applications in iTunes and Google Play and overall development of truly encrypted mobile communication applications.

Experts advise that users concerned with anonymity should stay clear from using mobile devices until better tools come to market. If you can’t wait then try The Guardian Project’s Orbot app for Android. Some protection is better than none.

How are you maintaining anonymity in the age of tech? Any helpful solutions that you can share? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credits:
Joachim S. Müller via CC
Stéfan via CC
ilouque via CC
Melina Manfrinatti via CC
Johan Larsson via CC

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Sarah Hartshorn is a marketing, public relations and social media professional with Vuze. She blogs about content, torrents, social media and a number of other tech topics. Sarah has been involved with traditional and digital marketing since 1998.
  • Adam Christian Smith

    I’m interested in knowing how to avoid my ISP from knowing what I’m using BitTorrent for. Will setting up a VPN help here? I’ve never seen a good top to bottom How To.

    • Sarah

      Hi Adam! Great question. A VPN is one of a few different things that you can implement to help with ISP tracking. Here’s a post that I put together with additional details that might be useful: far s a ‘how-to’ – that would be dependent on the VPN that you choose to use. Different services may have different ways of setting things up so that you can use. Most that I’ve researched are pretty simple and their support teams are great for getting you up and running. nnHope this helps a bit. Thanks for reading and asking. :)

      • Adam Christian Smith

        Thank you for replying. Still trying to make one work but it isnu2019t a primary issue at the moment. :)

        • Sarah

          Keep me posted on what you end up with, especially since there are so many to choose from, plus preference and taste. :) Good luck on the hunt and Happy pre-4th of July to you, Adam!