There’s a big gap between privacy and anonymity; in fact, the two have very different aims as well as different sets of tools. Being able to browse the internet privately is not that difficult to do, requiring only something like uBlock Origin installed, as well as the use of a private browser like Firefox. But when it comes to true anonymity, there are entirely new layers of complexity that are added to it – and it means that it can be more difficult to achieve.
Thankfully, the world is a big place, and there are people devoted to providing the average person with the means and tools needed to get past censorships, large firewalls, and other nefarious government policies that try to limit internet usage.
The Onion Router
The Onion Router, more commonly known as Tor, is a network and set of tools that allow a person to be anonymous on the internet. This is mostly done by using the Tor Browser, which is a heavily modified version of the open source Firefox Browser. Tor traffic is redirected through a large network of computers and servers around the world, obscuring IP addresses and making it that much more difficult for any tracking to occur. The Tor Browser also comes with extra layers of encryption built right in, meaning that any traffic the user sends out will be even more secure compared to a regular browser.
There are some caveats here, of course. For one, the Tor Browser is best left untouched, as the defaults are very carefully selected to provide an anonymous browsing experience. Changing any setting, apart from the Security Level, can compromise how effective the browser is.
Myths About VPNs
It’s common for security blogs to recommend a VPN – usually with an affiliate link not far from the suggestion – but it’s important to remember that VPNs do not provide anonymity. Even a really good VPN service is not going to make a person invisible on the internet; instead, a VPN is great to hide specific internet traffic habits from an ISP or governmental censorship.
Consider that there are people out there that can’t do things like read Wikipedia articles, watch YouTube content, gamble online with games like Australian online slots, or read certain news channels almost always because of some kind of firewall or online lockdown.
Zero knowledge is a term that relates to the amount of data that a company or service obtains about the person using said service. For instance, it’s well-known that Gmail scans its users’ emails and uses that data to personalise ads. Zero knowledge is what most people want to try and aim for in a company, because it means that the company does not have the capability of scanning anything. This provides a level of anonymity for the user and keeps their personal data as secure as possible. There are not a lot of zero knowledge companies out there, but one that does stick out is Proton Mail.