Beyond the web, trackers embedded in your mobile applications can gather data on your activity. On Android, you should turn off personalized ads through Google’s My Ad Center, simply toggling the setting to off. Also, delete your device’s advertising ID by going to Settings, Privacy, Ads and clicking on the Delete advertising ID option. There are also Android apps that will block cross-app trackers, such as DuckDuckGo’s browser app or the University of Oxford–developed TrackerControl. If you use iOS, go to Settings, Privacy & Security, Tracking, and toggle off Allow Apps to Request to Track to stop apps from tracking you across apps and websites.

For some people, a VPN may be useful for stopping their internet service provider from viewing their web traffic. VPNs can, however, see your online activity—in some cases keeping logs of it—and many are problematic. Our is Mullvad’s VPN, which is open source and accepts payments via cash mailed to its offices in Sweden.

Pick the Most Private Option

Every app, website, and service you use is likely to collect some data about you, but some collect more than others. Picking services that purposefully don’t collect information about you or that use end-to-end encryption, which stops companies from seeing the contents of your communications or data transfers, can help limit your exposure to the web. Generally, you want to avoid Big Tech.

For messaging, Signal collects very little information about who uses it, and it’s encrypted by default, meaning it cannot see the contents of the messages you send. For searching, DuckDuckGo, Brave Search, Kagi, Startpage, and Mojeek are our picks of the most privacy friendly search engines. For email, Proton and Tuta (formerly Tutanota) provide free end-to-end encryption options. OnionShare uses the Tor network to allow you to anonymously share files. Proton Drive offers encrypted file storage online, and Apple’s advanced data protection settings allow iCloud storage to be end-to-end encrypted once it is enabled.

If you’re using a work laptop or phone, it’s also worth keeping in mind that your employer can likely see many, if not all, of the things you do on those devices. If you’re searching for a new job or running personal tasks, you likely want to do them on personal devices.

Check What You Post

As much as anything, being more anonymous online is linked to your mentality. Simply put, the less you share about yourself online, the less identifiable you will be. That means being careful about what you post on social media—not sharing information that could identify you, your location, or others around you.

For instance, if you want to create a new social media account that’s not tied to your identity, keep any names or personal information out of the account name. You should also not sign up using your primary phone number, email address, physical address, or any similar information that could be linked back to you. This doesn’t apply just to a new account you’re creating; it should be the wider way you think about all of your online behavior.

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