The Internet has a way of lulling you into a false sense of anonymity. After all, how can anyone know your true identity in a virtual world? The truth is that simply by connecting to the Internet, you share information about your computer, your geographical location and even about the Web sites you visit.
The goal of anonymous Web surfing is to circumvent the technologies that track your online activity and may potentially expose your personal information to others. By surfing anonymously, no one knows who you are, where you're connecting from or what sites you are visiting.
When people think of surfing the Web anonymously, they automatically associate it with extramarital affairs, malicious hacking, illegal downloading and other sordid behaviors. That's not necessarily the case. In fact, there are many legitimate reasons why someone would wish to remain anonymous online:
- Your employer or school has strict Web surfing policies and filters your access to the Internet.
- You're a staunch free speech advocate and don't want the government or anyone else to censor your activities.
- You believe that the Internet is the perfect forum in which to express your opinions freely without fear of being harassed or tracked down by people who don't agree with those opinions.
- You believe the Bill of Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers you to conduct your private business without outside intrusion.
- You live abroad and want to access streaming video content that's only available to people living in your home country.
- You don't like the idea that search engines are collecting information about your queries.
- You don't want online advertisers to know where you live or what products you buy.
- You want to participate anonymously in Internet forums, perhaps to speak to other people about a private medical condition or to discuss
As you'll see in the next section, surfing the Web anonymously isn't as easy as erasing your browser history. Learn more about computer networks and IP addresses and how they can expose your identity.