Many people aren’t fully aware of the footprint they leave across the internet. Websites visited, products viewed, searches made – all of these are not as private as you might imagine. One example you may notice which demonstrates how your internet usage is not private is those advertisements which seem to follow you around the internet for products you have visited in the past.
This is known as “remarketing” or “retargeting” and relies on information you may think is private about websites you have visited. The information is held in a cookie installed on your computer. Ad networks then check these cookies so that they can select the best ad to show to you. What is most impressive (or scary) is how specific the targeting of these advertisements can be. Advertisers can even choose to target people who have added an item to cart on their website, but never completed the transaction.
It isn’t only advertisers who collect data from users; most free services you use are only available free of charge because they collect data from users. This data is then sold to third parties and forms a big part of the business model for most software companies. Many governments also require internet providers to keep hold of users Internet history for national security reasons.
Data for Internet users are logged from a number of places, such as:
You might not mind that certain websites and searches are being logged, but many people are not aware how much data is collected and how they are linked together. Your web search for legal advice is likely to be linked to your IP, name and even your e-mail address. This means that your search will be linked to your name for an indefinite amount of time, even if you didn’t want that to happen!
Fortunately, there are privacy tools you can use to keep your information safe. Below is a list you can check out:
IPVanish is known as a very high quality VPN which has a wide range of desktop clients including Windows, Mac and Linux. It also provides mobile apps for Windows Mobile, Android and iOS. It has 40,000+ IP’s on 400+ servers in 60+ countries, which allows you the ability to surf anonymously almost anywhere in the world. It also doesn’t log any traffic or use of the service and requires no personal information other than for payment of the service – which can be paid in Bitcoins.
Here is a quick word about VPN’s, which many people recommend as a way to shield internet use from ISP’s. While the VPN does shield your history from your main ISP, the information is still visible to the VPN provider. This means that the VPN provider could profile you in the exact same way that your ISP does – except they may do so for purely commercial purposes. This means you’re simply swapping your ISP’s spying for spying from a VPN provider!
This VPN is also available on numerous different platforms, but this one is promoted on security features rather than speed. Cyberghost includes multi-protocol support, DNS leak prevention, IP sharing and IPv6 protection. It also categorically states that it does not store user data which indicates that your data should be completely safe.
Disconnect is not the most simple of the tools available in this list, but it is a very high quality suite of security tools. It offers private browsing and private search, making it kind of a VPN dedicated to anonymous use of search engines. Disconnect state that they do not collect any personal data other than the data required when taking payment.
Mozilla, who created Firefox, are well respected as a browser maker for many reasons. One of the main reasons is because of the great quality for the browsers they make; but another reason is because they do not rely on user tracking like most others. However, you need to remember that despite the fact the browser doesn’t collect any information on you, if you log into Facebook, Google, or Twitter, they will still capture your information.
DuckDuckGo has been embedded inside Firefox since November 2014. The service protects your personal information and previous searches when you use a search engine. This means that websites you visit will not be able to see your previous searches, your IP, or the browser you’re using. It also offers a really good feature which allows you to connect to encrypted versions of websites allowing extra privacy.
Oscobo competes with DuckDuckGo and is actually practically identical to it in every way, other than the fact it uses UK specific results. Oscobo state that they do not record IP addresses or user data. In fact, they go as far to say that no trace of searches made from a computer are left behind.
All of DNS.Watch’s DNS resolvers can be used free of charge – which is something no one else offers. Using DNS.Watch ensures that websites will not be censored by your ISP, which is something that regularly happens. It also means that your queries will not be logged by your ISP. DNS.Watch promises that they do not log any queries. They always say, “We’re not interested in shady deals with your data. You own it. We’re not a big corporation and don’t have to participate in shady deals. We’re not running any ad network or anything else where your DNS queries could be of interest for us. Other providers do.”