As we become more aware of the many data security threats surrounding us, it’s more important than ever to ensure we stay anonymous online. However, it seems that some website or app is tracking us everywhere we turn. Even disabling location settings and using certain private browsers don’t seem enough to keep these digital spies at bay. So how can we get online anonymity amongst the myriad of tracking apps?
This article will explore app and website tracking and why your data is valuable. We’ll also look at ways that actually work to ensure you stay anonymous online, like using location-specific proxies such as a Russian proxy.
- Threats to online privacy
- Situations of app tracking made public
- How to stay anonymous online?
Threats To Online Privacy
In the past, we were more relaxed regarding our online privacy, as many of us weren’t even aware that apps and websites were tracking us. However, as more reports came out about how our privacy is being invaded and all the different ways we are being tracked – reality hit. If we aren’t careful about how we share our data online and take active steps to protect ourselves, our lives can quickly become an open book to trackers.
Websites started tracking us using various methods such as IP tracking, cookies, device fingerprinting, and more. As more of us started to deny cookies and use private browsers and other protective measures, these businesses started to look for alternate ways to collect user data – enter apps.
Considering that there are currently 6.3 billion smartphone users worldwide, and users spend 88% of mobile time on apps, it becomes clear why apps are such a convenient way for businesses to track users. And when used alongside data gathered through website tracking, these businesses can collect a vast amount of information.
Situations Of App Tracking Made Public
Have you ever wondered how apps track you? Perhaps you’ve questioned why the new game you downloaded wants access to your GPS. When we first install and launch new apps, they often ask for certain permissions. Some of these make sense, such as a navigation app needing access to your location, whereas other permissions seem odd. However, to start using the app as quickly as possible, we often accept those permissions without too much thought. By doing this, we may unknowingly permit apps to track our location and access our files, camera, and photo gallery.
A few years ago, the New York Times investigated a few potential tracking apps to see how much data they collect. In this investigation, they looked at WeatherBug, The Weather Channel, and Gas Buddy – three popular apps at the time. All three apps need access to your location to function and show you the weather for your area or the nearest and cheapest gas stations.
Aside from these three, they also looked at the Score, DC Metro and Bus, Tube Map, and a Masha and the Bear game (similar to the Russian cartoon but without relation). After the investigation, it was shocking to discover the amount of data and the detail or information collected by these apps. The apps collected detailed street information, travel routes, and frequency, and they could monitor what other apps are on your device, how often you use them, and the amount of time you spend on various applications.
It was found that the data collected by these apps, as with most apps, is either used for marketing purposes or to create targeted ads. Or it is sold to third parties who can use it in any way they want.
More recently, it was discovered that a female health and tracking app, Ovia, was responsible for collecting the most data from iOS users. Users wonder how many more commercial female health and tracking apps are being used to track users and monitor their reproductive cycles – possibly to enforce a potential abortion ban in the US.
How To Stay Safe?
The best way to stay anonymous online is by using a proxy. Proxies disguise your IP address and replace it with one of their own. As such, websites and apps don’t see your information but rather that of the proxy. Location-specific proxies, like a Russian proxy, are great for anonymity. A Russian proxy will make it look like you’re accessing the internet from within Russia, even when you aren’t. They’re great for confusing tracking efforts, bypassing geo-restrictions, and accessing local content.
However, it’s always best to deploy a multi-faceted approach when it comes to online anonymity. Here are a few other measures you can use alongside your proxy to maintain your privacy online:
- Use private browsers like Tor or Brave
- Enable ‘Do Not Track on your browser
- Review app permissions and disable any that aren’t required
- For permissions needed for an app to function, set them to ‘Only while using the app’
Online privacy is more critical than ever. With more ways to track users being discovered, we have to use multiple ways to ensure our online anonymity. This includes using proxies, private browsers, and being aware of the permissions we give to apps, and checking the terms and services and privacy settings to see how they use our data.