Tagged With anonymity

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It's not just sinister creepers who want to hide their phone number from recipients. Perhaps you're buying something over the phone and don't want the business' marketing department to have your contact details. Or maybe you're arranging a first date and aren't entirely sure about the guy yet. Whatever the reason, here's how to stop your number flashing up on the display of the person you’re calling.

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Secret, anonymous messages aren't just for the dastardly. Luckily, a little privacy isn't difficult to get. With some effort and a spare phone, you'll be whistleblowing, protecting your privacy from harassers, and staying anonymous when selling on Gumtree or looking for dates on Match. Here's how.

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You don't need to have evil motives for wanting to fake your identity or go incognito online; for many people, it's a matter of privacy and avoiding spammers and scammers. Thankfully, there are a great many tools for staying anonymous online. Here are a few of the best.

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Firefox only (Windows/Mac/Linux): Firefox extension Ghostery alerts you when you visit a web page that uses scripts to track your information and browsing habits. The extension embeds itself into your status bar and shows you a list of all tracking scripts in a small notification rectangle in the upper right-hand corner of each page you visit. The idea is very useful in principle, but since the vast majority of web sites (including this one) are advertising supported, you'll see the notification on every page load if you keep it enabled, which can quickly get tiring—preferably, you could toggle the visibility of said window. Still, if you're worried about your privacy online, this extension is definitely for you. Ghostery is a free download, works anywhere Firefox runs. For more on keeping your data private, see our top 10 tips to lock down your data.

Ghostery

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Web application whspr! creates a private feedback form that you can share on services like Twitter without revealing your real email address. Simply enter your real email address, a description of what the form is for, and the number of days you want the form to be active. Once completed, you'll be given a URL to the form to share with others. This application could be useful for job postings, blog contests or giveaways—pretty much anything where you'd like email responses but don't want to give out an email address. If you want to send private messages instead of receiving them, check out previously mentioned Whisper Bot, or you can send your awkward messages anonymously with NiceCritic.

whspr!

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Windows only: OperaTor combines a thumb-drive-friendly version of the peedy Opera web-browser with transparent privacy through the Tor network. Other than a slight lag when first loading the browser—because you can't see a lightweight proxy loading in the background—the Tor-connected experience was no different than loading regular Opera. That means no configuration or connection settings, which is great for private proxy newcomers. If you don't dig the alternative-to-the-alternatives Opera browser, you can use previously mentioned PortableTor in connection with any portable browser you find out there. OperaTor is freeware, Windows only.

OperaTor

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If you've ever wanted to send an electronic message to a friend without spying eyes reading your network traffic, web app Whisper Bot might be just the ticket. Sending a message is as simple as entering your text, the recipient's email address, and optionally adding a password to secure the note against anybody spying on your email. The recipient gets the link and enters the password that you communicated (through another means) to retrieve the message. The site is secured with SSL to prevent eavesdropping, but like any online service you are still at the mercy of a third party, so you probably shouldn't use this for anything really sensitive. Granted, you should already beusing your secure https connection for your email anyway (you can even tell Gmail to always use a secure connection), but you can't always count on your email's recipient to do the same. Since the sender name field is optional, this could also be used as an alternative to previously mentioned NiceCritic for sending awkward messages anonymously.

Whisper Bot

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Save yourself an embarrassing moment with the NiceCritic.com website, which can anonymously tell that co-worker to wash their hands before they leave the bathroom, or at least stop trying to shake your hand. Using the site is as simple as choosing between one of their pre-written messages. Unlike the similar previously mentioned Annoying Coworker site, there's no option to create your own message, but they do cover a wide variety of topics for office as well as personal situations. Add in your recipient's name and email address, and the message arrives in their inbox. It's worth noting that the site is a little slow, and likely to get slower under the "Lifehacker effect," at least for today. Have an awkward co-worker moment you're just dying to tell somebody? Is Milton playing the radio at an unreasonable level? Share it in the comments—just don't use your real name!

NiceCritic.com

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Free email protection service akapost isn't the only way to hide your email from spam bots and unknown correspondents, but it is one of the most hassle-free ways of doing it, for both mailer and respondent. Once you set up your account with akapost, you can use it as a simple redirection tool by posting it in forums or on your website (and then using the right filter for mail coming through it), or by writing directly to people you don't quite trust with your address yet. Add .akapost.com to a message sent directly from your protected, registered address, and your recipient just sees your akapost address, while any replies still come to you. akapost protects one email address for free, while charging for additional or group addresses.

Akapost

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Just like email, communicating via text message can feel like a one-on-one exchange—but that privacy is an illusion. Yahoo Tech's Gina Hughes runs down a few ways you can protect your privacy with SMS, like passwording your phone, using anonymous SMS services like AnonTxt.com, and completely destroying your cell phone's data before your sell your phone. All of these suggestions don't actually make SMS secure, because the transmission itself is not, and the copy of your message, in the end, is stored on someone else's phone and there's no way to control what happens from there. In short, the best way to protect yourself is to not text sensitive info, like passwords, PINs, or, um, flirtations you wouldn't mind others knowing about. Text Messaging Privacy

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Web search site Ask.com has added a new privacy feature to their search called AskEraser, which, when enabled, deletes your search activity from the Ask.com servers within hours while it remains turned on (as opposed to the standard 18-month hold time). That includes your search query, IP address, user ID, and session cookies, which should make up the bulk of data that could possibly identify you. For more information, check out the AskEraser FAQ, or if you're looking for something similar for Google, try the third-party Googlonymous—though it'd be great to see something similar to AskEraser implemented directly in Google. To enable AskEraser, just click the link on the top of any search page.

Ask.com with AskEraser

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Video weblog Unwired explains how to browse the internet anonymously with The Onion Router network (commonly known as Tor). We've covered anonymous browsing with Tor in the past, but this Unwired explanation features a nice introduction to how Tor works and how to get started with Tor using the TorButton Firefox extension. Concerned about privacy at work? Check out more ways to bolster your browsing privacy on the job.

Using the Onion Router network