How to stay anonymous online
Most of us share personal data without even knowing about it. Here's a real-life example: if you use a social media site, your personal information, including your likes, your dislikes, your opinions, your list of friends, your birthday date, and many more pieces of data like these can be (and probably are) shared with the interested third parties.
It is true that most of these companies use the data to better target their advertisements, with the goal of having people like you and me purchase more of their products or services. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't care about our privacy, though. Here are a few methods that will help you stay anonymous online.
Let's begin with the basics: your browser is tracking your online activity. You may have heard about cookies, which, unlike those real-world cookies, aren't that adorable. As you visit various websites, their owners store cookie files on your computer or smartphone, and then utilize them to track your activity.
This is why the incognito browser mode has been invented in the first place. And yet, the interested parties will still have the means to determine your IP address, and then find out who you are. So, using your browser's private mode is definitely a recommended option, but it's not enough.
To go to the next security and anonymity level, you will need to use a virtual private network. Services like these have prices that range from $3 to $30 per month, and you can often find VPN lifetime deals on various tech deal sites.
What about email privacy? There are several browser extensions and applications that can encrypt email data before sending it to the recipients. Take Gnu Privacy Guard (GnuPG), for example; it can encrypt and sign your data and messages, and there are lots of other utilities and libraries that have been built for it, extending its functionality.
Often times, we give away our personal information, starting with our names and email addresses, anytime we register a new account at a social media website, for example. However, there are ways to prevent that from happening; we can use anonymous email services, and thus reduce the amount of information we are sharing with third parties. Here are a few examples.
Guerilla Mail creates free, disposable email addresses. It supports email attachments that can have over 100 MB and has an Android client as well.
Mailinator is even easier to use. You think at a name, you add the @mailinator.com extension to it, and it turns into a real email address that can be used instantly! Of course, if somebody else is using the same Mailinator name at the same time, he or she will be able to access your emails as well, because the service doesn't utilize passwords.
However, this is a minor inconvenience, because you can come up with creative names that aren't probably going to be used by anyone else, such as "cuterabbit6421".
10 Minute Mail is a service that will create email accounts which self-destruct in ten minutes. Still, this is more than enough to create an email-based account, without giving away your personal information. And if you need more time, you can easily prolong the lifetime of your account with ten more minutes by simply pressing a button.
The created email has all the functionality you'd expect from a modern service; you can reply to messages, open attachments, click activation links, and more.
Next time when you fire up your browser, pause for a few seconds and think at the information that you are going to give away on each site. The tips highlighted in this article will increase your level of anonymity, but their success rate won't ever reach 100%. A much better idea is to reduce the number of websites that you are visiting on a regular basis.