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Anonymous Surfing - Ideas & Dilemmas

An informational article provided by

Our service, iPrivacyTools, is geared toward customers who want to "hide" or "change" their IP address. This implies a certain degree of anonymity, which is more than adequate for most users to visit websites and participate in online communities without exposing their IP to hackers and others. However, in an ideal world, the term "anonymous surfing" would probably involve a higher degree (100%) anonymity. In general, we don't stress the "anonymous surfing" aspect of our service for two reasons:

  1. We feel that doing so would attract a criminal element. Although we value online privacy rights highly, we do not want to promote a means by which law-breakers feel they will never be found.
  2. Regardless of how confident an organization is in its service, with so many technical and programmatical elements involved, we don't feel that any service can fairly promise a client 100% anonymity online.

This second point raises some interesting issues that we think you should be aware of when reviewing "anonymous surfing" services. In particular, promises and guarantees of "anonymity" require that you trust the company making them.

  • Can you think of a better way for a criminal to monitor communications and steal personal information than by offering a service that promises anonymity, but then monitors the traffic they're supposedly "relaying"?
  • Can you think of a better way for a law enforcement agency, or a government, to track criminal activity (however they may define "criminal") than by establishing a service that promises anonymity and then logs/reviews Internet traffic?
  • Yes, there are some big and "trustworthy" names in the anonymous surfing industry. But if you are a political person wishing to keep your views private, would you trust those companies if you knew they had contracts with various governments?
  • Even if you trust a provider who claims that their service encrypts traffic and/or randomizes the ingoing and outgoing connections on their servers, what if you are the only person connected to their server at a particular time? That may just link you to any/all outgoing connections being made by that server during that time period.

True Anonymous Surfing

I cannot imagine too many scenarios in an average person's life where they would need 100% anonymous surfing to completely "hide their identity" online without the possibility of tracking. Legitimate situations might include expressing a political viewpoint in opposition of an unjust government, or communicating factual information that might attract retaliation from a physically or financially dangerous party (e.g. "whistleblowing").

But honestly, how many times in an average person's life do such situations arise? In all my years, I have never personally found myself in such a predicament.

However, if I did, I must say that I don't think I would trust any online service with my life. That's right, there is not one single "anonymous surfing" service that I would bet my life or anyone else's life on. Instead, I would probably:

  1. Drive several miles away from my home.
  2. Use my laptop computer at a busy public library that doesn't require a login (as most don't).

There you go -- that's about as 100% anonymous as web surfing can possibly get (IN MY OPINION). And it costs nothing.

The next best thing in Anonymous Surfing

In my less-than-perfect mind, the next best thing to the anonymous surfing idea above would be a service that:

  1. Relays Internet traffic through multiple independent servers (owned by different parties) in multiple countries.
  2. Encrypts connections between the user and first server, as well as between all intermediate servers.
  3. Does not require payment of a fee for registering.
  4. Covers any and all Internet applications and connections, meaning no possible leaks.

Personally, I am not aware of any such service. However, a good start in that direction can be found in the Tor Project. As far as I'm aware, the only shortcoming is that Tor does not protect all Internet connections. Therefore, it is extremely important that you either disable or configure all non-browser applications and plugins that might connect to the Internet. In other words, to be 100% confident in your anonymity, you must be 100% confident in your ability to monitor, disable, and/or firewall all possible leaks. Given that requirement, I would also not trust this solution with my life.

However, Tor is probably more than adequate for most legitimate uses.

On the other hand, that word ("legitimate") raises another issue -- what percentage of Tor's "anonymous surfers" do you think are using the service for fraud, hacking, or other unlawful purposes? I personally have no idea, but I do know that the demand for such anonymity by criminals is probably quite high. And that raises the question: do I mind sharing IP addresses with criminals?

Anonymous Surfing with iPrivacyTools

So what kind of anonymous surfing is iPrivacyTools suited for? As mentioned above, our standard service is focused on the "change IP address" and "hide IP address" crowd. Being able to mask one's IP will allow you to surf "anonymously" on most websites, and participate in most online communities, without exposing your IP address to parties that might want to track your location or hack your system. However, it will not allow you to break laws with immunity, as legal processes can be used by courts and law enforcement to reveal your true IP.

Our standard service is also perfect for the many users who wish to "geospoof" their IP location -- perhaps the traveler or expat who wishes to maintain a virtual presence in their own country.

iPrivacyTools also offers a deluxe service which caters to those users who are concerned that their communications are being monitored unlawfully, perhaps by their employer or school. This VPN-based service encrypts communications between the client's computer and our server, which renders such surveillance virtually impossible. A higher degree of anonymity is also achieved by the fact that the VPN connection places an "umbrella" over all your Internet connections, so leaking of your IP through 3rd party applications or browser plugins is extremely unlikely.

However, this service still does not promise "untraceable" immunity for illegal activities. That's just not the type of service we're interested in providing.

Do you have any "anonymous surfing" input that you'd like to add to this page?

Please let us know, so that we can keep this information fresh and useful.

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