Your IP address is your computer’s identification number, and any time you access the Internet through your computer, that ID number is recorded by your Internet service provider (ISP). This means that information about everything you see and do on the web can be easily monitored and stored for future reference. When you consider that most anyone with even an intermediate understanding of computer technology can find out what your IP address is, the prospect of having that data readily available on the Internt becomes a scary one. Fortunately, there are some ways to hide your IP address while searching the web, and you don’t have to be a techno-genius to do it.
Search engines like Google use the data they collect about your IP’s web activity to learn all kinds of things about you. This information is aggregated and shared with web developers, marketers, and the like, so that they can tailor their products, advertisements, and web offerings to your unique preferences and habits. While this can have some clear advantages, it also has some dangerous drawbacks. What if, for example, you find out that you have an STD and you want to research it online? What if you use pseudonyms to post comments in special interest group blogs that you don’t want others to know you’re a part of? What if you don’t want companies using your personal information to bombard you with marketing ploys? These are examples of common complaints people have about visible IP addresses. It’s really a matter of privacy.
Your IP address is what communicates with other servers to allow you access to the web. Therefore, it’s technically impossible to fully hide your IP while surfing the web–that is, if you want to be able to see anything. Applications that allow you to hide your IP address actually do so by filtering it through something called an anonymous proxy. Basically, an anonymous proxy is a server that communicates with other servers on your behalf. Instead of other servers seeing your IP address, they see the proxy’s IP address.
If you search the web, you will find a variety of options when it comes to using anonymous proxies. There are countless free services that you can use just by signing on through the Internet, but beware that these might not be as reliable as paid services, and they may even slow your computer down. You should also look into software that connects your computer to the web through an anonymous proxy. These are generally safe and easy to use, and they offer other features that you may find useful.
Hiding your IP address is relatively easy to do, especially with programs like HotspotShield, even if you don’t have much in the way of computer skills. Consider the risks of making your IP address visible when deciding just what an anonymous proxy is worth to you.