Understanding Online Privacy and Anonymity

Edward Snowden has become “persona non grata” for many, whereas he has been proven to be an icon for many others. Either way, he is an expert in anonymity and privacy and nobody can argue with that.

When he wanted to communicate and leak the documents that have been classified, he did not use it out in the open air. Instead, he went on with using TAILS and PGP. These two layers of protection allowed him to avoid being spotted by anyone online. If Snowden was cautious enough to add multiple layers of protection, why should you be any different?

There is a misunderstanding among people, who commonly confuse the concepts of online privacy and anonymity. Many think that these two concepts are identical. This is not the case, as we are going to show right away.

Privacy or Anonymity?

When you use VPN, you obtain privacy. Why? Well, you receive and send data online and everyone can see your IP address and the IP of the other end of the connection. So, even though you safeguard the content of your traffic, you do not safeguard your own digital footprint. You appear online and you appear to connect to the other remote place you share the traffic with.

On the other hand, when you use Tor you obtain anonymity. Nobody knows that you share the files with others, because your IP is hidden. However, the data is not encrypted and therefore there is no actual protection of what you send or receive. Through the multiple portals your traffic passes, your IP is protected – but what about the privacy of what you share?

As you can see, you can have privacy and not anonymity or you can have anonymity, without privacy online. For getting your hands on both these concepts, you need to combine the benefits of Tor and VPN. As a result, you will be sure to encrypt your data and mask your IP address at the same time.

Last but not least, you should think twice and use common sense, in avoidance of fatal mistakes online. Although these tools support your efforts to remain out of reach, you need to be proactive and use everything cautiously. Take for instance the example of the student, who had sent bomb threats using Tor and at the same time using the Wi-Fi of the university he attended. Police had no trouble connecting him to the threats, since nobody else used Tor at the moment.

So, always make sure to use everything with a pinch of salt…

Image from Flickr

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