Why should you browse anonymously?
In this article, we tell you all about how to prevent your browsing history from being tracked by companies, advertisers, or hackers.
When we surf and browse on our laptop or smartphone, we leave traces of private data all over the internet. While we trust the businesses and other internet users we share our data with, our data can still be misused for harmful reasons, like hacking or identity fraud. But also unwanted advertising is a real nuisance for any internet user who finds himself trapped in the jungle of data-splashing all over the place.
Safeguard your privacy by anonymous browsing
Anonymous browsing is one of the best ways to safeguard your privacy online. It’s not only relevant to people who are very conscious about their online activities and don’t want to reveal their location via their IP-address.
It’s also relevant to you because it prevents your search and browsing history from being tracked by third parties, like advertisers or hackers. It’s a real lifesaver for anyone who takes their online anonymity seriously.
Besides, anonymous browsing online also keeps those nosy internet companies who sell your identifiable data to other companies at bay. Companies such as Facebook and Google use your data to better understand your preferences and subsequently target you with advertisements.
User tracking is perceived as a perfectly legitimate way to find out more about potential customers, but to the potential customer in question, it’s an annoyance at best to be followed around the world wide web all the time.
We’ve all experienced that uncomfortable moment when you’ve browsed something randomly, only to see that exact same object popping up somewhere else over and over again. It only goes to show how these companies rely on watching and tracking your online habits.
Pop-ups and cookies
Fortunately, the European Union recognizes the problem and launched the GDPR to empower people to choose which cookies they consciously consent to. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean those tracking days are over. Companies simply present you with a pop-up asking if you’ll accept the cookies or not, which of course you do. After all, you want to visit this website, right?
What is anonymous browsing?
For users who want to visit the website but don’t want to be tracked down, there is anonymous browsing. Anonymous browsers let you view websites while preventing any personal information, like your IP address, from being revealed.
Of course, there is a lot of specialist software around. Tools that are used for governments, journalists, and internet users that are extremely conscious of their privacy online, for example. These browsers, such as The Tor browser, were designed so that users could send sensitive information safely and without an interception.
But before we dive deeper into the realm of anonymous browsers, there are other ways of disguising your online presence.
- Private browsing: this privacy feature can be found in some web browsers. When you switch on this feature, your browser creates a temporary session that is cut off from the main session. Your browsing history is thus not saved and all local data, such as cookies, are cleared when you decide to close the session. No data and history will be saved on your device, which is useful when you’re entering sensitive bank details into the browser, for example. However, the websites you visit can still track you, so it doesn’t do anything to protect your information while browsing the internet.
- Proxy: a proxy server works as an intermediary between your computer and the website you want to visit. Whenever you make a request, the proxy server masks the true origin of that request, because the IP address and the information it gathers belong to the proxy site. In that way, your online history cannot be traced back to you.
- Safari on iPhone: Do you have an iPhone with an iCloud+ subscription? Then turn on iCloud Private Relay. It isn't the same as a VPN, but it certainly has its similarities. Private Relay helps protect your privacy when you browse the web in Safari. With Private Relay enabled, your internet requests are hidden from your network provider and the websites you visit.
- VPN (Virtual Private Network): this tool keeps your browsing behaviour invisible and ensures an anonymous browsing experience. When you use a VPN, you’re connected to the internet via a VPN server. This server sends all your data through an encrypted tunnel, which makes your IP-address and location invisible to everyone.
Want to learn more about using a VPN? Check our article about online privacy and the use of a top-notch VPN here.
Best anonymous browsers
What are the best anonymous browsers to use? We give you some pointers regarding the best anonymous browsers around. These browsers will keep your data safe from being used by third-parties. They will also prevent your data from being collected by companies who wish to sell your data for their own gain.
The Tor Browser is an open-source piece of software that was designed by the United States Navy. It allows you to send sensitive information without it being seized or grabbed by third-parties. Tor uses an anonymous network of computers to connect to the internet. Your connection is then forwarded from one computer to the next, with each computer only having knowledge of the next one. This ensures a highly private connection, but because of its complicated layer technique, it’s also slower than other browsers. But if you need an extra layer of anonymity, it’s your best choice.
This browser also guarantees a privacy-first approach but is also easier to use than Tor. Brave blocks trackers and unwanted ads and upgrades site security all the time, all the while letting you in control of your own data. If you want the best of both worlds, consider Brave’s Private Browsing with Tor: this is a combination of Tor’s outstanding privacy and Brave’s ease of use.
While Firefox is not entirely clean of prying eyes, they do have deals with Google, for example, they do enjoy a good reputation for providing privacy in their default mode. As a user, you can also customize the Firefox browser with security extensions and turn it into a private browsing mode to block third-party trackers.
This is a search engine first and foremost, but it does have a privacy browser on Android and iOS. It is the clear winner in our private search engines analysis. DuckDuckGo blocks trackers and assigns websites a privacy score, a handy feature to swiftly discover what websites actually do with your data. This search engine and part-time browser has an excellent reputation for treating your data reliably and not selling your information to other parties.
But while there are lots of useful browsers around, one of the safer ways to help you control your privacy online is a good and reliable VPN. Check out our article on VPNs to learn more about the various ways to stay anonymous online and about the best VPN available right now!
Frequently asked questions about anonymous browsing
Which browser is most anonymous?
It is difficult to surf the internet 100% anonymously. However, there are browsers that give you a hand by forming a 'gatekeeper' between your personal information and third parties.
The most popular and best option for anonymous browsing is Tor Browser. This is a free, open-source browser, that deliberately makes it difficult to discover your identity and location. In other words, your identity is hidden as much as possible. The benefits are that Tor deletes cookies and prevents data sharing. One disadvantage, however, is that it can slow down your connection a bit.
In addition to choosing an extra secure browser, such as Tor, there are other options to visit websites completely anonymously. For example, you can use anonymous VPN services and anonymous search engines.
Can anyone see if you use incognito?
No one can see that you are using incognito mode while browsing. This is because incognito mode works only on your device and does not share any information about you on the web.
However, it is good to know that incognito mode only does not save your temporary files and browsing history, but at the same time does not hide your IP address. Your location and device can still be tracked that way. So if you want to browse completely anonymously, you need to take additional actions.
How to anonymously browse while using my college Wi-Fi
Anonymous browsing on the university's Internet connection can be challenging. After all, the administrator of that Wi-Fi network may be monitoring your online behaviour. However, there are a few possible steps that can help you browse anonymously.
- Use a VPN: a VPN hides your location and IP address.
- Use the Tor Browser: the Tor Browser is there specifically for anonymous browsing.
- Use HTTPS: use HTTPS to avoid monitoring your behaviour as much as possible.
- Avoid using personal accounts: do not use personal accounts, such as email and social media.
- Use privacy-friendly browsers: use browsers like Brave or Firefox, which protect your privacy more than other browsers, such as Chrome or Edge.