What the Internet Knows about You
Today, the Internet is a very dominant tool used by countless people to gather information, communicate, and use for entertainment purpose. What some people may not realize is that while using the internet, it catalogs a plethora of information on their actions making quite a lengthy and scarily accurate digital trail of their time on the internet. This information can then be used for a lot of things which they may not be aware of; such as lead generation, which is the act of a company purchasing your information (or paying for a service which uses your information) to swarm you with advertisements, or the act of even tracking your habits and communications through the activities your IP Address does on a regular basis.
A more common use of this amassed information is by government agencies to use it to screen your daily activities and even make certain judgments on your character based on this information without a need to even speak to you directly. It is actually well-known that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States houses a huge data warehouse of billions of records of data on billions of people in the world for reasons we can only assume fall into this grey area.
While Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are no strangers to lead generation so they can gain revenue, they also use this data to connect to other platforms. For example, Facebook uses your information to not only provide advertisements to other companies in a way that makes the advertisements more relevant to you based on your previous actions, but they also use it with Spotify to share private information about your actions on the platform.
YouTube, now being a part of Google, uses this type of data they collect to build their algorithms to give you content relevant to videos you've watched. However, they also use this data to help in Google's search engine and advertisements that are shown to you as well which feels like a big encroachment of personal privacy.
These are truthful but some of the scenarios which a person's data can be used for, and some of these are not even remotely as disturbing as the thought of what Apple could be doing with the number of fingerprint patterns and matches they have potentially accumulated from their fingerprint reader by now. Basically, it is not uncommon for big tech companies to do these things and for that main reason, many consider trying to browse the internet privately rather than risk having these companies or government agencies have such personal information on their person without much of their input on the matter.
Common Ways to Browse Privately
One popular way people browse the web anonymously is through the use of a VPN, virtual private network. These function by creating a secure connection between the user's machine and the VPN server, and they're accessing websites as if browsing from the server effectively hiding your IP Address. Through this means, it becomes significantly harder for a website to put the actions of an IP Address to your specific identity because it cannot trace you effectively creating a wall between these websites and companies and your private information.
Incognito mode on browsers is another option many consider and use to browse the internet. This method is a feature many browsers have begun adding in for the sake of those who wish to have more privacy and comes as a free alternative to the use of a VPN which usually comes with a cost (albeit, a relatively small one). Running the browser in incognito mode disables storing browsing history, cookies, site data and any form data you submitted through the browser, and hence running the browser in private mode.
Proxy servers function similarly to a VPN and are another common tool people use to browse the web anonymously. They function by having the server retrieve the website data of the URL the user enters; meaning, they effectively working as a middle man to exchange information between the user and the web server. This method, however, comes with the tradeoff of latency as you have to first make a request to the proxy server, which makes a request to the website, and then sends it back to the proxy server and then to you.
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