Anonymous proxy servers are a great way to mask your IP address online, but there is still plenty of information about your Web surfing habits stored on your computer. Luckily, it's easy to control your privacy settings directly in your Web browser.
One of the simplest ways to cover your online tracks is to manually delete your browser history. All Web browsers -- like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome -- allow you to delete your Web surfing history.
Follow these instructions to delete your browser history:
- In Safari, go to the History menu, scroll all the way down to the bottom and click "Clear History."
- In Firefox, open the Preferences box from the Firefox menu. Choose the Privacy tab. Go down to the section on Private Data and click "Clear Now."
- In Google Chrome, go to the Tools menu, select "History," select a recent Web site and click "Delete history for this day."
- In Internet Explorer 7 and 8, this process is a little more complicated. Go to support.microsoft.com and follow the directions there for assistance.
Note, however, that any network administrator -- at the office or even at your ISP -- can access your surfing history on the network level, even if you erase it on your computer.
You can also control how your browser handles cookies. The default setting on most browsers is to accept cookies from all sites. You can either block cookies entirely -- which might prevent you from using certain online banking and shopping sites -- or you can choose only to block third-party cookies.
Since anonymous Web surfing is becoming more and more popular, the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome include special settings for surfing without a trace. By enabling these settings, your browser won't save your surfing history, search queries, cookies, download history or passwords.
Here is how you activate anonymous surfing in some the more popular Web browsers:
- In Internet Explorer 8, open a new tab and select "Browse with InPrivate."
- In Safari, under the main Safari menu, you can check a setting called "Private Browsing."
- In Google Chrome, click on the page icon next to the URL window and select "Open New Incognito Window."
In the next section, we'll talk about ways to get around the thorny problem of Web sites that force you to register.