31.Lock DigitalRoom

While the internet provides many benefits, it also brings new risks and challenges. One of the most common and notable of these is the threat to our privacy. Some users might think that they are protected by their browser, search engine and antivirus programs. However, the truth is that most of us aren’t doing nearly enough to keep websites from tracking us. 

 

This article will look at how websites and other platforms track you and why you are being tracked. We’ll also discuss seven different ways to hide your IP address and keep websites from tracking you. Keep reading to find out the best ways to hide your IP, protect your online browsing and ensure you aren’t being tracked.

How Are You Being Tracked?

Before we can understand how to protect ourselves, we need to know how we’re tracked. There are a few different ways that websites and apps can track users. Here are four commonly used methods that websites use to track visitors.

  • IP Address
  • Permissions
  • Emails
  • Search History

IP Address

Your IP address is the unique identifier for your network. An IP address is critical for the internet to work as it’s responsible not just for identifying your network but also for communication between your network and the web. An IP address can easily be tracked and give the tracker a clear idea of you. From your IP address, trackers can get your location, details about your connected devices, where you go, and lots more. If you don’t hide your IP address, details of your personal preferences can be gathered by many different websites and hackers.

Permissions

We often give apps permissions they may not need just to start using the app. But this can be a way for the app to collect your data and track your preferences. For example, why would a navigation app need access to your contacts or photos? Or why would a game need access to your camera? These are all sly ways that apps use to legally collect information on you.

Emails

Emails contain a lot of information. Not only could it contain sensitive information about you or your business. But, there are many other details attached to emails that users may not be aware of that can be tracked. Email trackers aren’t exactly a new concept, and they have been used by email marketers, individuals, phishers and spammers for years. Email tracking software allows the user to see exactly when an email was opened, who opened it, and their location.

Search History

There is a reason why clearing your search history is recommended. And no, it’s not just to keep sensitive information from your parents or significant other. The bigger reason is that your search history provides search engines and websites with a clear picture of your browsing practices and preferences. From your search history, search engines can see when you browse the web, where you’re located (geo-tagged websites), how long you spend on different websites and the types of sites you enjoy visiting.

Who Is Collecting Your Data?

Data is a very broad term. It can refer to personal identifiers such as your name, email address, social security number and financial information. It can also describe your browsing patterns, history and preferences. This data can be valuable to different people for different reasons.

Businesses, websites and app developers want more data to refine and personalize their marketing strategies. By knowing more about their target audience, they can curate ads that lead to better conversions. As annoying as this may be for us, it is a legitimate way for businesses to do market research and gain valuable insights for marketing.

One of the main reasons websites and apps collect your data is either for marketing purposes or because it’s a lucrative side hustle. By tracking what website you visit, where you shop and what you buy, a business can create targeted marketing strategies aimed at you. Have you ever wondered why you suddenly start seeing ads for items on special shortly after searching online for that specific item? Or why do you suddenly see ads for health and wellness apps after searching for healthy recipes?

Alternatively, some individuals track you and collect your data for more nefarious purposes. These purposes can include stalking, launching DDoS attacks, identity theft, and even spreading ransomware.

7 Ways To Keep From Being Tracked

Data breaches, websites tracking your every move, and other individuals looking to collect your data for different reasons may make browsing the internet safely seem impossible. However, you do have control over your information, and there are ways to protect yourself.

Using Multiple Browsers

You can use multiple browsers to confuse search engines and keep them from tracking you. Different browsers have different access to your data through your IP address. By switching browsers often, you can obscure any data collected. Also, make sure that you enable the ‘Do Not Track’ settings on any of your chosen browsers. While this option does not guarantee that you won’t get tracked, it becomes more valuable when combined with other measures.

When choosing browsers, make sure that you use only secure browsers that state that they don’t track your data. On computers, you can use private browsers like Tor. Tor is also available on Android devices, or you can look at Orbot. If you need a private browser for iOS devices, the Onion browser is a good option.

Using Rotating Proxies

A rotating proxy is one of the best tools to hide your IP address. A proxy acts as a middleman between the user and the internet. Before accessing the internet, the user’s IP address is replaced by an IP address of the proxy. There are many different types of proxies available from reliable providers. Choosing the type of proxy you need will depend on your needs. When it comes to hiding your IP address, a rotating proxy is one of the best options. A rotating proxy uses a vast pool of residential proxies. It changes the user’s IP address with each new request, making it impossible for anyone to track you using your IP address.

Mixing User Agents

User agents are essential for communication between you and the webserver. The user agent provides the website with important information such as the browser you’re using, your operating systems and the rendering engine. The webserver can then show a website optimized to these specifications with this information. This is why certain websites look different if you access them from another device. 

You can use a user-agent switcher to change the details of your user agent easily. This will make it appear to the website that you are using a different browser or operating system. Changing this frequently makes any tracking difficult.

Use Browser Add-Ons To Identify Trackers

Aside from user-agent switchers, there are also many other browser add-ons and extensions that you can use to avoid being tracked. If you are switching browsers, make sure that you get additional security and privacy measures for all the browsers you use. 

Privacy Badger is an add-on for Opera, Firefox and Chrome. With this extension enabled, you can clearly see third parties and ad networks tracking you. This helpful add-on also has an auto-block feature that you can use when you find someone tracking you.

Disconnect is another useful browser extension available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. This extension visually shows you which websites are tracking you in real-time. These often invisible trackers can also be blocked directly from the extension.

Blur is another great extension for Chrome and Firefox. It can be used as a password manager and generator, ad-blocker, and offers additional encryption. If you sign up for the premium version, you also get access to masked cards. These throw-away virtual cards can be used for online shopping in place of your debit or credit cards.

Check And Adjust All Privacy Settings

Make sure to check that all of your social media apps are set to private. By default, some of them are set to public, which means that anyone can legally collect the data from your profile without your permission. This includes personal details such as an address, names, date of birth, and other information such as music preferences, where you work, your photos and more. Make it a habit to check your apps regularly to ensure they are all set to private.

Use Different Passwords And Update Them

Passwords can be hacked and bypassed. This is why it’s essential to change your passwords frequently. Also, make sure that you choose a complex password consisting of letters (both cases), numbers and symbols. Also, never use the same password across multiple accounts. If you use the same password, a hacker that breached one account can get easy access to all of your other accounts as well. As such, use different passwords for different accounts, and change them often.

Use Services That Remove Data From Brokers

Another safety measure that should form part of your privacy arsenal is using services to remove your data from any brokers or listings. If you keep getting spam calls, obnoxious ads or even spam emails, the chances are that your name is on a list somewhere that’s available to these businesses or individuals. By using one of these services (or sometimes multiple), you can remove your name and information from these lists and start protecting your privacy. Unfortunately, you may need to repeat this now and again because information has a way of getting out. A few services that remove data from brokers include DeleteMe, Safe Shepherd and Catalog Choice.

Final Thoughts

Technology and the internet are continually evolving. This means that it’s challenging to know precisely how you’re being tracked. As such, you must take as many measures as possible to protect yourself. Hide your IP, use multiple browsers and never use Facebook, Google or similar apps to register new accounts on other websites. By implementing a few different measures, you can browse the internet safely without being tracked.