Can You Browse the Internet Anonymously? Yes, But It’s Tricky

Posted on Oct 20, 2022 by Julia Olech

Your personal data is worth almost as much as gold in the digital world. Due to its value, advertisers, the government, websites, and sometimes even ISPs constantly try to collect as much of it as possible — despite online privacy being your legal right. However, companies aren’t immune to data leaks, leaving you and your data at risk.

According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, 44% of leaks expose personal information, like email, address, and full names. The first half of 2022 saw over 80 million data leaks, affecting more than 53 million users in the US alone. And that’s just 6 months.

This should get you thinking about where you leave your data and how you can protect it. Ultimately, the only way to be 100% invisible is to not use the internet at all… which is not feasible for most people. The good news is that you can reduce the amount of data you leave online and boost your protection with a set of simple precautions. We’ll show you how.

Browsing the Internet Anonymously — Is It Possible?

By definition, anonymous browsing doesn’t leave traces of your data on the internet. But it’s not as easy to do as you may think. In fact, achieving full online anonymity is near impossible.

The good news is you don’t need to reach a James Bond level of online protection as data collection isn’t binary. Some details, like healthcare or financial records, are more valuable than others and are more often targeted by tracking software. Does it mean you can forget about it and leave the blinds to your online browsing open? Absolutely not. 

Before we get into it, you must remember privacy is not the same as anonymity. For example, WhatsApp’s encryption keeps your messages visible only to the sender and receiver, so they remain private. This doesn’t extend to metadata, leaving details like your name, phone number, and IP address in Mark Zuckerberg’s hands. Considering the US intelligence can request these details from WhatsApp, it definitely removes any aspect of anonymity. 

Everything you do online comes with metadata: playing games, sending emails, posting on social media, etc. It’s immediately available to your ISP and anyone tracking your traffic (for example, advertisers or apps you give permissions to), especially if you don’t use a VPN.

Aside from metadata, your devices regularly send information to their manufacturers or other third parties. So, if you browse the internet on your phone, Samsung or Apple get instant updates on the state of the device and what it’s up to. It’s the downside of popular tech brands, and it’s impossible to bypass unless you switch to a device made with privacy in mind, like a Fairphone or a Framework laptop.

The lack of anonymity also extends to social media and how you use it. As soon as you log in to your account, the platform knows you’re active and starts tracking you. This goes from checking your location and search history, to collecting details you provide, like full name, address, likes, preferences, and so on. You could avoid logging into online platforms, but it often restricts your options as a user. 

The good news is you can significantly reduce how much data companies get on you. It requires a concerted effort, as you must go through your browser’s settings and install various security add-ons and special software to boost your protection. 

Why Even Bother?

Digital privacy is a right – fight for it

Have you ever opened Google to check something, only to have the search engine suggest the exact question you were thinking? It’s almost as if someone was sitting in the corner, sifting through every conversation you have.

Online trackers are getting smarter every day. They follow the trail of online crumbs you leave whenever you browse the web, scroll social media, or even ask Alexa to add milk to your shopping list.

You may not think small bits of data hold much worth, but these crumbs can slowly add up to a whole loaf of bread. Third parties collect anything you drip-feed them and create entire profiles on you. It’s especially concerning when you add malicious actors to the mix, as cybercriminals can then use these details and any data you offer up through social platforms to perform various attacks, e.g. identity theft. 

It’s not just criminals you have to watch out for. According to the 2021 Thales Data Threat Report, around 45% of US companies experience a data breach of some sort. Doesn’t seem like a lot? These breaches affected almost 213 million users! The report didn’t consider undetected leaks, so the number was probably much higher.

Learn How to Browse the Internet Anonymously

Boosting your internet anonymity isn’t as difficult as you think – but it’s also not a walk in the park. You can do one or two steps from the list below, but you should apply as many as possible to browse Reddit, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, dating sites, and more anonymously. It’ll take some time to set up, but it’s worth it in the long run.

  1. Adjust Your Browser’s Privacy Settings

Your browser already has a set of settings you can (and should) change to increase your online anonymity. Though not very extensive, most browsers let you adjust cookie settings, trackers, ads, app access permissions, and more. What you can adjust differs depending on which browser you use, so it’s a good idea to take a good scroll through all options and see what you can change

  1. Browse in Incognito Mode

Don’t ditch the Incognito mode just yet. Though it doesn’t boost your anonymity too much, it still prevents certain cookies from collecting your data and tracking your visit. It’s also handy if you want to keep your search history hidden from people who might have access to your devices, like children. Any little bit helps!

  1. Regularly Delete Your Cache and Cookies
Some cookies give you a toothache, some hurt your digital identity

Instead of sugar, spice, and all things nice, digital cookies collect pieces of online data containing information about how you interact with specific websites. This includes what you browse on said platform and which details you input to better tailor your experience if you use the same site again.

Due to legislation updates like GDPR, many websites need your permission to collect cookies. It’s a nice thought, but you often don’t have a choice to decline all of them – otherwise, most platforms just won’t work.

For this reason, you should clear your cookies every time you finish browsing. Though it won’t completely prevent data collection (which happens while you’re scrolling), it’ll remove your identity from the website.

To clear your browser cookies, open its settings, find a privacy and security tab, and delete cache and cookies. The instructions may differ slightly depending on which browser you use, but you should find it fairly easily. 

  1. Sign Up to an Anonymous Email Service

An anonymous email hides your identity and encrypts any messages you send or receive. It masks your name, address, IP, and any existing metadata. This ensures no one can intercept your conversations at any point – even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to decrypt and trace them back to you.

When choosing the right anonymous email provider, check what jurisdiction it falls under and the encryption it provides. You want end-to-end protection with a service that’s not legally bound to hand over user details when requested – or with a service who does not keep any activity details at all. The best anonymous email providers include Mailfence, AnonAddy, and Guerilla Mail. 

  1. Stop Spyware With Antivirus Software

Malicious actors don’t always stop collecting your data when you log off. Through the use of pop-up ads, torrent downloads, or dodgy websites, they infect your devices with spyware and keylogging viruses. Once it’s nestled within your device, both types of malware secretly collect your keystrokes and computer data and send it back to cybercrooks.

Do yourself a favor and download a good antivirus solution to kick nasty spies out of your business. Good antivirus software is programmed to instantly detect and remove malware, like keylogging, before it has a chance to access your data. 

You don’t have to search far and wide to find a reputable antivirus either! PIA offers a helping hand here. Our antivirus offers round-the-clock device protection, which removes threats and unpatched vulnerabilities. It also leverages a cloud database of threats, which we regularly update with the latest details on upcoming types of malware.

  1. Download Tor Browser 
Ogres have layers, onions have layers, and Tor also has layers.

The Onion Router (Tor) gets its name from the multiple levels of security it provides. It sends your connection through different nodes worldwide and encrypts your traffic, so no one can actually see who you are or what you’re doing. This process takes more time, making Tor slower than less private browsers, but it’s a price worth paying for extra privacy. 

Tor works only with traffic passing through the browser. So, anything you do outside of the browser stays visible. This means it won’t anonymize the data you send through online apps, like WhatsApp, Skype, or social media. 

We recommend you connect to PIA’s servers before opening (or even downloading) Tor. ISPs tend to be suspicious of anyone using The Onion Router simply because they can’t see what you’re doing. This often leads to speed throttling, which can make browsing frustratingly slow. 

PIA’s encryption stops your ISP from knowing you’re protecting your privacy with Tor, so it can’t slow your browsing down. It also hides your real IP address from Tor itself. This anonymizes your actual location, so even the browser doesn’t know where you’re connecting from.

  1. Install Privacy Add-Ons on Your Browser

If you don’t want a new browser, why not utilize privacy add-ons for the one you already use? Whether you browse in Google, Firefox, Safari, or Opera, you’ll have a huge selection of extensions to increase your anonymity. 

Start by getting an adblocker, password manager, and VPN add-ons. Combined, these stop adware, pop-up ads, and malicious actors from breaking into your devices and aid you in creating more secure passwords. 

PIA offers secure extensions for Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. They let you connect to our entire server network in more than 90 countries and protect your anonymity with military-grade encryption, an advanced Kill Switch, and open-source VPN protocols. Test PIA’s privacy at no risk for 30 days. 

  1. Browse the Internet With Anonymous Search Engines
You can change your location without leaving your house – no cap!

If you use Tor, but stick to popular search engines, you’re still compromising your data privacy. Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other engines often collect your data and pass it on to advertisers to personalize your online experience.

DuckDuckGo is the default search engine for the Tor browser, as it’s set up to block trackers on every website you visit. Of course, this means you need to manually log in or input your information every time you want to use a specific website, but it significantly boosts your anonymity

However, websites you visit through DuckDuckGo can still recognize your IP address – so they know when you visited them and where from. Though they can’t see what you’re searching for or track your information, your location isn’t anonymous at all. 

  1. Use a Web Proxy

Let’s focus on masking your IP address then. A web proxy lets you connect to its servers and borrow an IP from a different location. This means websites think you’re in a different city or country, so they can’t track your location, protecting your personal information. 

However, a proxy on its own doesn’t provide any encryption. Without it, the data you send stays visible and up for grabs – especially on public Wi-Fi. So, while proxies may sometimes be a good choice for bypassing local firewalls and hiding your location, they don’t stop anyone from tracking your activities back to your device. 

  1. Connect to a VPN

A VPN does what it says on the box – it routes your connection through a private network. VPNs have their own server networks you can use to reroute your traffic. Once your connection goes through a VPN server, it receives top-grade encryption, which stops any sort of snooping, whether you’re using a browser or separate apps. 

Unlike Tor or proxies, PIA applies unbreakable military-grade 256-bit AES encryption to your entire traffic. With encrypted data packets, no one can recognize what you’re doing online or what data you’re sending and receiving. And that means your personal details stay hidden from the outside world. 

The best news is you can use PIA to browse the internet anonymously risk-free for 30 days! Our subscription plans come with a money-back guarantee, so you’re not losing anything when you sign up. 

Extra Tips On Protecting Your Digital Identity

The steps above outline the main precautions you should apply to your digital life. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. Boost your protection with our top tips:

  • ✅ Don’t use messaging apps or sites without end-to-end encryption.
  • ✅ Change your DNS servers.
  • ✅ Make online purchases with anonymous payment methods, like Blur.
  • ✅ Go through your online profiles and delete any identifiable information.
  • ✅ Set up a fake GPS location on your devices to avoid location tracking.
  • ✅ Check the cloud storage provider you’re using guarantees secure encryption.
  • ✅ Refrain from using public Wi-Fi without a VPN.

Browse the Internet Anonymously with PIA

Internet privacy is our bread and butter. With 10+ years of experience, we’ve learned the ins and outs of internet anonymity. Our servers provide military-grade encryption and a built-in tracker blocker to stop anyone from getting hold of your information. 

Better yet, our Kill Switch stops your data from leaking when you use patchy Wi-Fi. So even if your internet suddenly stops working due to power cuts or you’re connected to a public network, you won’t accidentally hand over your personal details.

We strictly abide by our No Logs policy, too. Our RAM-based servers delete your data with every reboot, so they never store your information. Since we don’t have your details, we can’t hand it over to any third parties – even if they ask for it. 

PIA’s apps work on all major operating systems, so you can use it as a PC VPN or as an iPhone VPN. It’s also compatible with Windows, Android, and Linux!. You can even set it up on your router to boost your anonymity on any gadget or device, like Smart TVs or gaming consoles. 

Why not check it out for yourself? Browse the internet anonymously with PIA, and let us know what you think!

Don’t Let Anyone See Your Data As you Browse the Internet

Browsing the internet anonymously is a team effort. You need to combine web proxies, browser add-ons, antivirus, ad blockers, and other protective software to begin your data protection. 

However, having a VPN in your collection can truly maximize your protection and boost online anonymity in seconds. PIA’s top security features, like military-grade encryption and a Kill Switch, stop any data from seeping through the cracks. We don’t store any of your information ourselves either! Boost your internet anonymity with PIA on all devices for 30 days without any risk.


Can you browse the internet anonymously for free?

Yes. Private browsers, search engines, and even browser add-ons don’t require any payment for you to secure your search history. Many proxies mask your IP address without a fee, while some anonymous email services offer free account setup.

Although you can find free VPNs on the market, they often don’t prioritize your security and may even collect and sell your data to earn money. 

At PIA, we boost your anonymity without forcing you to pay through the roof. All of our subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can try PIA completely risk-free.

How do you browse Reddit, LinkedIn, and Instagram anonymously?

Use an anonymous email to create accounts on social media, like Reddit, LinkedIn, and Instagram. This separates any data you already shared on social sites from future scrolling and posting. 

When signing up, don’t use your real name, address, or other identifiable details. This also goes for your social media usage – don’t share personal data to protect your anonymity. You should adjust your privacy and security settings to stop anyone from finding your profile or following you without approval. 

Connect to a VPN server network before you open social media to prevent IP tracking and block accidental check-ins.

Is a proxy just as good as a VPN for anonymous browsing?

No. Though they reroute your traffic through independent servers, proxies don’t encrypt your data. They change your IP address, masking your geographical location, but not your search history or browsing.

A VPN elevates your protection by providing top-tier encryption. As soon as you connect to a server, your information is completely masked, so no one can intercept and peek into your data. 

Does a VPN help you browse the internet anonymously?

Yes! A VPN helps you browse the internet anonymously and protect your digital identity with a set of security features, like encryption and a kill switch. This wraps your traffic in a protective layer no one can see through – not even your ISP. This is handy because it stops unfair throttling when you’re streaming or gaming a lot. Our security features also stop data leaks even on patchy public Wi-Fi.