July 5, 2017
Everyone, the world over, has a reason to want to private browse. Maybe you want to hide the porn you like to watch or maybe you’re doing research you don’t want competitors to know about.
Somewhere between these two extremes is a reason for you to do private browsing. But be prepared; being able to browse privately takes a number of different tools and tactics. Let’s look at the essentials I have identified below.
Private browsing tactics: Start here and work down
Private browsing setting in your browser
If you are using a computer that is shared in any way, remember, your browsing history is automatically stored in the browser. This applies to the family computer, school computer, or a library computer.
Turning on the private browsing setting in your browser is the first step to take toward private browsing. Using it will block third-party cookies from tracking you from site to site. It will also delete the first-party cookies as soon as you leave the site.
Private browsing is a lot more than what happens in your browser history. There are many online entities that want to track you. When they track you they store your browsing history. Sites running Flash, or showing some sort of video, frequently store cookies.
To prevent this you need to remove third-party cookies. Find the option to clear your browsing history in your browser settings. Make sure to check the box for cookies. Delete them and you will be tracked less.
Using a private browser
Directly above we looked at using private browsing settings, but why not use a browser that is private to begin with? These browsers have all of the privacy settings possible already turned on. They are purposely built for private browsing. Examples include:
It should be noted that TOR is more than just a browser. It is a network-connected browser that routes your traffic through a variety of different routers. As a result, it is not a very good browser for anything that requires speed.
Restrict the sending of location details
Your browser will collect location information and share that with websites you visit. Most of the time this is done to help target you for personalized search results. It will also adjust the ads so that they are optimized for you.
Unfortunately, this also sends data that could be intercepted by someone trying to find you. The online world is a gold mine for stalkers. Here is how to turn it off in different browsers:
- Safari: Preferences — Privacy, and then select Disable Location Services.
- Opera: Preferences — Websites — Location, select Do not allow any site to track my physical location.
- Chrome: Preferences — Settings — Advanced — Content settings. Now choose the option to disallow, or ask, for location data requests.
- Firefox: Type “about:config” in the URL address bar. Then enter ‘geo.enabled’. To stop repeated requests double-click to disable location entirely.
- Microsoft Edge: In your main computer settings go to Privacy. Choose the location option. Turn off location there.
If your browser isn’t listed above there still will be some sort of setting for this. Check in your preferences.
Hide your location with a VPN
While we are on the subject of hiding your location, there is a much more stealth way to hide. The way that the majority of websites find out where you are is by reading your IP address. This unique identifier tells a number of things, plus it can track your location to within a block.
It is easy to hide your location, even from your browser, by using a VPN service. The way that it does this is by:
- Routing all of your traffic through a VPN server.
- Your traffic then takes on the IP address of this server.
- Any websites trying to obtain your location will actually get the location of the VPN server.
- The location of your actual IP address is hidden.
Not only is a VPN able to hide your location through IP tracking, it is also able to encrypt your traffic and hide you from your ISP tracking you. A VPN can help you with two different private browsing tactics, and can be the one tool that you turn to for your needs.
Google loves to track absolutely everything you do online. It does this in an effort to help you find better search results, and serve you better advertisements. Unfortunately, this is information that is useful to hackers.
There’re two ways you can go about anonymous searching:
- Go to Google’s Search Tools – Results – Verbatim
- Stop using Google. A good example includes DuckDuckGo.
Being able to browse whatever you want, without surveillance, is severely restricted by Google.
Stopping Google tracking
Google tracks your activities through more than just its search engine. It also uses Google Calendar, Gmail and Chrome browser itself. Again, it does it in the name of personalization and advertising. And it’s still data that can be useful to hackers.
Stop social media tracking
Absolutely everything online, especially those that are free services, want to track your online activity. This is why it is so difficult to truly have private browsing without taking a number of steps. Think of how many social media sites you are a part of. They all track you.
Here are a few ways to stop some of their tracking for advertising purposes:
- Facebook: Go to your Facebook settings, click on Adverts, and control the advertising there.
- Twitter: Go to your Twitter settings, go into Security and Privacy, and then uncheck the box for Tailor Ads.
- LinkedIn: Go to Privacy and Settings tab, go to Accounts, Manage Advertising Preferences is where you will change those settings.
Your activity is still going to be tracked. This is mostly going to stop ad personalization. Again, you should use Ghostery or Adblock Plus.
Browsing privately online
The tactics above are going to help the average person enjoy more private browsing online. To get much more private than this you’re going to have to basically learn to be a hacker. If you employ everything above you can skip that lengthy education and enjoy the maximum amount of private browsing available.
Marcus Habert is the resident security writer over on the Best VPN Provider blog. He writes about Internet security and privacy issues with a passion that occasionally borders on the paranoid. Don't worry, tinfoil hats are never advised.