Some might say that the Internet was built on anonymity, paving the way for a place
But after years of learning about who’s snooping into everything we do online, privacy on the Web is a more popular topic than ever. But it’s not just about government spying; it’s also about how much big companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have collected in order to serve up targeted ads.
Though the social-networking age has led to a culture of oversharing, the Snowden revelations prompted some to consider how best to stay anonymous online. Some activists were not content to wait for the NSA, Zuckerberg, or the White House to take action. Back in 2012, there was The Day We Fight Back (against mass surveillance), which came two years after a major online “blackout” helped to stop the SOPA and PIPA legislation, and served to honor the memory of activist Aaron Swartz.
Not much has changed since then; things may be even worse for our online privacy and anonymity. Even the guy who wrote the book on Steve Jobs thinks that anonymity online should come to an end (and it’s hard to argue that trolls should get to continue what they do when 70 percent of people aged 18 to 24 have been harassed while online).
But there are always going to be good reasons for people to go online without being tracked. It may be the only way for a real whistle-blower to get by now, considering how some have been treated (nice job, Wells Fargo).
Is it even possible to take control of your own personal privacy online? Some 28 percent of Americans are “not confident at all” that the federal government can keep their personal information safe from the prying eyes of unauthorized users, and 24 percent lack any confidence that social media sites can either, Pew revealed this week.
Ultimately, the only way to stay truly anonymous online is to not go online at all. Since that’s not really an option for most of us, here’s a rundown of what you can do to minimize the spying, the targeted advertising, and ID theft as you explore the world online.
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1. Check Your System
Phone Call Confidentiality
If you want to be anonymous, forget the smartphone. The big-name OS makers are control freaks (Apple) and ad servers (Google). If you want to be anonymous on a phone, your choice is a prepaid phone, a.k.a., a burner.
Even with a burner, call records exist, and you could be triangulated via a GPS. The upside of a burner is not having your real name associated with the device. And as you see in the movies, you can always throw the phone into a passing truck and lead whoever might be tracking you on a merry goose chase.
But when you’ve got an expensive smartphone, getting more hardware is a pain. Thankfully, there are apps aplenty to get you temporary, anonymous numbers you can use with Android or iOS.