Understanding the basics of the internet can go some way to assist in the understanding of how your privacy is at risk online and just how much information and profiling can be linked back to yourself simply by your browsing habits. There are many ways in which your internet use can be tracked, especially where it concerns the web and with so many different aspects it is difficult to go in to depth in the space of one article in the complete steps to answer all such tracking and privacy concerns.
Firstly, one of the most basic but important aspects of internet function is the fact each internet connection is assigned what is known as an IP Address. An IP Address is a unique identifier to your connection at that particular moment. This can either be a statically assigned IP Address which will remain the same and linked to you for an indefinite period of time or more commonly these days a dynamic IP Address which changes at regular intervals. Years ago before broadband internet, with the old dial up style connection it was a more common case that each time you dialled in, you would be assigned a different IP Address.
In the sense of attributing your internet use to an IP Address, due to the constant changes dial up provided it would be less likely that a 3rd party could track your usage via your IP Address alone, although your ISP was likely to have a log of IP Addresses assigned to yourself at a particular time, owing the ability to concretely conclude that any activity carried out between those specific hours of your connection was down to yourself, or at the very least someone with access to your computer.
So how does that impact on the internet today? Broadband connections are much more likely to have an IP Address assigned to your connection for a long period of time, this could be weeks or even more likely, months. Any activity carried out from that IP address could be used to build a profile of your interests, hobbies, times of access and more. Now there are plenty of ways your anonymity can be hampered online from cookies to search engines logging all of your searches while you’re logged in. While these all affect your privacy, I wanted to concentrate on anonymity based on your IP Address.
Encrypt your internet access
As we’ve already established, all information coming in and out via your connection, ie; your IP Address can be attributed to you. When you surf secure sites, such as those that use HTTPS, the connection is encrypted from your browser and so what you’re doing can’t be necessarily seen. However everything outside of this could in theory be logged. One of the best defences against this is to sign up for a service known as a Virtual Private Network. What a VPN does is encrypts your entire connection from your computer or mobile device and transmits it in encrypted form to a third party server hosted by the VPN provider.
The third party server can be anywhere in the world, from close by in your own country, to far away on another continent. Once the encrypted data hits the third party server, it is unencrypted and passed on to the wider internet. When data is coming back from the internet it will go via the third party server, get encrypted and be forwarded back to yourself. In simple terms you put a third man between yourself and the internet ensuring that all of your internet use and communications are encrypted and removed from coming from yourself, as far as the wider internet is concerned.
There are still ways your anonymity and privacy can be hampered, from logging in to personal accounts such as Google which will log all of your search requests to cookies that track your website movements. You can of course log out of accounts or use either In Private mode on Internet Explorer or Incognito mode on Google Chrome to limit the ability for such tracking.
There are plenty of good VPN providers that we list in our VPN Comparison Guide so feel free to take a look through to see which are most suitable for your specific needs. We do recommend taking a look at VyprVPN, IPVanish, LiquidVPN and VPN.ac as each offer great services with some being better for certain usage that others, ie; the latter two being more suitable for torrent access.
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