You may have heard the rumours that you are being watched the moment you come online in the age of information and technology. You may not believe it, but yes, it is partially true. Of course, entities are unlikely to watch you literally. Instead, the surveillance might be subtle, like collecting metadata in bulk and analyzing it. None of us is completely invisible or off the grid online, and anyone can be tracked. And even such minor things like metadata can reveal a lot about us.
For example, metadata can reveal where our messages are going and their timestamps. Now imagine if entities have an extensive report containing such data from several years. It is concerning.
As a society with an ever-increasing thirst for knowledge and information, we often forget that what we post on social media is not necessarily private. It can be found by anyone with access to the internet who knows how to do some digging. This leaves us vulnerable to hackers, criminals, marketers, and to anyone who wants to learn more about us than they already do.
But, if you want to cover your online history trails, this article can provide you with enough knowledge about it. Below are some ways to make you partially invisible.
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What Traces You Leave Behind?
When you visit websites, the internet browser saves information about what you do online. It includes all the searches you made, visited websites, etc. It is also important to distinguish between two different traces: passive and active. The latter refers to the digital footprints we leave willingly. For instance, when you post a comment associated with your account on a particular platform. You decided to share it, and all that information you revealed is a deliberate choice.
However, passive digital footprints are left without even realizing it. For instance, our IP addresses are seen by mostly all online entities we encounter. Each website considers your IP address to, say, show particular shipping fees (in the case of an online store).
Thus, we give away a lot without giving consent. And while you can limit the active digital footprints, keeping track of passive ones is tricky. However, it is possible, and we will introduce you to some great solutions you can try right now.
Use Incognito Mode/Private Windows
This is at least a basic defense. Incognito Mode is present on most popular browsers, and their names are the only difference. Chrome calls it Incognito Mode, Firefox and Safari call it Private Window, and Microsoft Edge calls it InPrivate. Regardless of their names, all of these serve the purpose of not retaining any of your history in the browser.
Additionally, when you log in to your social media accounts or login to shopping websites, the id and password you use are not saved. The moment you close that window, you will be logged out of it immediately. However, these incognito options are not foolproof. For instance, network managers can still see what you are doing.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Using a VPN on Windows or any other operating system is the best trick to keep your tracks hidden from abusers, cybercriminals, and even from your Internet Service Provider. Using VPN will help you hide your IP address as well, which means nobody will get to know your location.
VPNs are different from Incognito modes present in the browsers. A VPN encrypts your entire internet traffic and will allow you to conceal your IP address. The latter is one of the passive digital footprints you share most frequently. Thus, by hiding it from online entities, you will evade IP-based tracking and will not give away your approximate location.
Delete Browsing Data
This practice is a little tough to perform every day but can save you from getting tracked by any inappropriate person who can misuse that information. It only takes three to four clicks and not more than two minutes to clear all your browsing data, credentials you entered, and the cookies all at once.
Every browser has a section named “History,” you need to open it and look at the options of erasing data. Generally, the available options are, wipe browsing history for the past hour, a day before, previous week, previous month, or delete from the starting. Choose whichever option you need, and you are good to go.
Tools and Plugins
You can try out some tools and plugins developed dedicatedly to protect you from any cyber-attacks by hiding all your information for extreme-level security. They hide your browsing history, activities, credentials, and even the IP address from everyone.
You can choose one for yourself from the list.
- Tor Browser: It works on the fundamentals of VPN and bounces your IP address around the globe so that nobody can track you. However, it is rather slow, so your browsing will become sluggish.
- Tails OS: This is a complete operating system designed for providing serious security to you from miscreants. It is developed based on Incognito mode, but a little more enhanced one. Every time you boot this OS from scratch, without any traces of your previous work.
- DuckDuckGo: This search engine can provide you extreme privacy by not keeping any of your activity and blocking the sites which track your activities.
It is impossible to make your activities completely invisible. The chances are that you will still leave certain passive or active footprints. However, you can minimize these traces if you use the internet cautiously. For instance, remember that everything you post will remain in the digital space for years. Some information has a certain lifespan, but it might be that the information will remain available somewhere. Thus, using privacy-focused browsers, VPNs, operating systems, and other tools will allow you to regain control over your digital identity. But, of course, it is your responsibility to ensure that things go your way.