The leaks by Julian Asange of Wikileaks were a dominant theme of 2010 and it got me thinking that perhaps, in some cases, a little more privacy could be desirable when browsing the internet, which is certainly unusual for a me as I rather agree with Zuckerberg that privacy is largely dead, so is it possible to browse privately nowadays?
After following the trials and tribulations of the Iranian Presidential Election in 2009 I became aware of the Tor Project for Anonymity Online which was developed to help people in oppressed regimes gain access to the internet without being able to be easily traced by their governments. They describe the project as:
Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.
Sounds excellent no? And it has the added benefit of allowing you to setup a node on your computer, so that whilst you benefit from anonymity as you browse you can help others in much more difficult situations be protected to. There are easy to follow instructions here and packages for all flavours of Windows, Mac and Linux.
But you might not want to just browse the internet anonymously all the time. I certainly haven’t spent years actively sharing my web browsing habits with google’s web history to loose it’s benefit now. So I wanted a way to just be able to turn it off and on as I felt like it. If you’re using Google Chrome this is as simple as installing an extension: the Proxy Switcher to be exact.
You can find an excellent tutorial here to guide you through the process of linking Proxy Switcher to Tor, all of which shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes of your time (courtesy of the eminently helpful Lifehacker.com) and then you’ll be able to browse privately to your hearts content without the fear of Big Brother breathing down your neck (or read Wikileaks if you’d prefer to be secretive).