Protecting your online privacy seems to be getting harder and harder these days. One of the main problems is that when you log on to the internet you have a traceable location – your IP address – that shows where you are and possibly who you are.
This can be dangerous if you live under a repressive regime, or just annoying if you prefer to keep your online activities to yourself. Thankfully there are ways to obfuscate this information. We show you how to hide your IP address.
For more ways to protect your private data read our What does Facebook know about me? and Online dangers features.
Use a VPN to hide your IP address
Perhaps the easiest way to hide your IP address is by using a VPN. These Virtual Private Networks disguise the origins of your connection by displaying an entirely different IP address to observers. The address can be anywhere in the world (assuming the service you use has servers all over the world), which also means that VPNs are often used to circumvent regional restrictions on services such as Netflix.
See also: Are VPNs legal?
VPNs also encrypt the data that travels to and from the servers you visit, thus providing an added layer of security.
The Opera browser has a VPN built-in, but there are also a number of paid and free alternatives.
For more details on how Virtual Private Networks function read How to use a VPN, then check our Best VPN 2018 chart to see which services we recommend.
Use a Proxy server
A similar method to VPNs is that of a Proxy server. These services allow users to log onto the Proxy, essentially borrowing a different server address as you browse online.
Just as with VPNs, Proxies are often used to get around geographical content blocks, and are also popular in parts of the world where the internet is more heavily regulated.
While proxy servers are a valid way to hide your IP address, they come with more risk attached to them than some of the more reputable VPN sites. In the past there have been instances of the proxies themselves tracking people’s activities, and as the information on a proxy isn’t encrypted as it is on a VPN there is also the potential to have your data collected.
Use the Tor browser
One name that is synonymous with online privacy is the Tor browser. For many years this has been the go-to app for people that don’t want their online activities monitored or traced by governments, corporations, or hackers.
Tor is a free, open-source, downloadable browser that uses volunteer servers to bounce your connection around the world and make it extremely hard for anyone to find out what you’ve been up to.
The emblem of Tor is an onion, which represents the layers of encryption that further protect user data, while bringing tears to the eyes of intelligence agencies the world over.
There is one drawback, though, and this is the fact that using the Tor browser isn’t exactly the fastest experience in life. Applying those encryption layers, and rerouting your data throughout the globe, exacts a toll on performance.
For more details read our How to use Tor guide.
Android users will be happy to note that there is also a version of Tor available for phone and tablet which goes under the interesting name of Orbot.
Again it’s free, and employs the same levels of chicanery to hide your location. Tor has yet to create an app for Apple devices, but iOS users can read How to browse anonymously on iPhone and iPad for more ideas.