One of mankind’s greatest inventions (besides the wheel) is the Internet.
The Internet is a wonderful tool, but users must fight to remain as anonymous as possible, because getting too much of yourself “out there” could lead to trouble. In fact, it’s a big business all in itself: tracking users’ data and selling it to advertisers. Now this may sound rather benign, because no matter how much or how little of you is “out there,” you’re always going to see ads anyways.
But it’s the idea that other entities are tracking you, and also the idea that you don’t know who. All the time, information about you is being swooped up without your knowledge.
- IP tracking. The “IP address” of your computer stands for Internet protocol. The IP address is issued by your Internet service provider and is unique to every user. An IP address can be tracked, revealing the user’s home address. Law enforcement will track an IP address of, for example, someone making threats via e-mail to bomb a school.
- ISPs insist they don’t track IP addresses. But there are cases that make this hard to believe, such as when someone downloads a copy of a new movie. Not long after, they get a letter warning they’ve violated copyright law. This means their browsing habits were shared with a private company.
- Cookies. Visit a site. It has cookies or data pieces that will record that you visited it. This is why when you visit the site again a week later, you’re automatically taken to the page you were last on. Cookies can also build a pattern of your web habits, so that before you know it, ads are popping up everywhere relating to sites you’ve visited.
- Social media. Sites like Facebook will track your browsing habits with cookies, leading to the targeted advertising.
So how can you remain as anonymous as possible?
- Open new links in an incognito window. When you right-click, a selection box will appear; choose “open in incognito window.” The incognito window means you will not leave behind cookies or browsing history. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be the Invisible Man. But at least it’s a way of cutting down on how much of your browsing habits are revealed and shared.
- You can download Hotspot Shield. It will put a stop to third-party tracking and encrypt data that you share with sites. You may also want it even more for its ability to mask your IP address. There is a free version and a premium version that costs $29 bucks.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.