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How to Browse the Web Anonymously

by on December 08, 2015
in Computers and Software, Internet & Networking, Computer Safety & Support, Tips & How-Tos, Privacy, Tech 101 :: 43 comments

Internet spyingThere are plenty of reasons why you'd want to stay anonymous online. Maybe you want to avoid those creepy targeted ads for things you Googled earlier in the week. Or perhaps you just don't want your previously visited websites turning up in your partner's browsing session. Whatever the reason, privacy online is becoming a big deal as it becomes clear how little of it we really have, thanks to ubiquitous website trackers that collect data on our movements.

From turning on your browser's incognito mode, to downloading a plugin to erase your tracks, here are some tips on surfing the web without leaving (too much of) a trail.

Private Browsing FirefoxUse a private browser window

If you share a computer – or are at a public computer – turning on private mode prevents your browsing history from being stored on the computer, thus preventing the sites you visited from popping up later, say, in an auto-completed web address.

Third-party cookies – small text files that track your movement between various sites – are also blocked, and first-party cookies (which track your movement within a site in order to keep track of, say, your shopping basket or preferences) are deleted at the end of the session, so that the next time someone visits that site, it won't be clear that you'd been there too.

What to do: Head into the toolbar of your browser and select a private or incognito mode.

Kill all cookies

Blocking or deleting third-party cookies (do it by heading into your browser's Privacy settings) stops some kinds of tracking, but not all. Flash cookies, or so-called super cookies, can store more information and are left by sites that run Flash, which is almost any site with video content. These super cookies can track your movements across different browsers and even regenerate third-party cookies you previously deleted.

What to do: Download the free CCleaner to clear both Flash and regular cookies, but be warned – some sites use third-party cookies to track you within the site, so you may find yourself having to sign in repeatedly.

Search anonymously

Google accounts for more than 90% of global search traffic, with billions of search queries processed a day. It uses this data to deliver ever more personalized search results, which are highly relevant for most of us, but it also creates a bubble of you-centric search that could prevent you from seeing certain webpages based on what you've clicked on in the past.

What to do: You can turn off Google's personalized search by hitting Search Tools > All Results > Verbatim. To prevent your searches being tracked – and affecting the ads you're shown – switch to a private search engine such as DuckDuckGo.

Stop Google tracking you

Thanks its varied combination of services – Gmail, Calendar, Google+, YouTube, Search – Google is in a unique position to build a profile of who you are, what you like and what you do online. Its unified privacy policy means that it can track you across all its services – including scanning your email  - and use the information cross-product to personalize your experience. The pros are handy things like getting location-specific calendar reminders, but the cons include targeted ads based on your email content or your picture turning up on items you've liked while logged into Google+.

What to do: Opt out of “shared endorsement” in ads and turn off ad personalization (you'll still be shown ads, but they won't be targeted). Finally, download the Google Analytics Browser Add-on to stop Google Analytics using data on your movements to create profiles for its ad partners

Stop social sites figuring you out

It's no secret that social network sites have amassed a huge amount of information on us based on what we do within their sites – things we like, people we click on most and what we search for. But sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn track users even after they've logged out of their accounts. One way is when you click on social media sharing buttons, such as a Facebook Like button, or a Twitter share button. But even if you don't share content, the very act of visiting a webpage that contains such buttons sends the information back to the mothership, allowing advertisers to continue showing the same ad to someone who has visited their webpage and left (perhaps because they browsed but didn't buy).

Facebook, which operates its own mobile ad network, uses an alternative to a tracker called a conversion pixel that advertisers use to track how many clicks or sales they receive. The information goes back to Facebook, regardless of whether the advertiser's site had a Facebook button on it.

What to do: Head to Facebook's Settings / Adverts to control whether ads are targeted based on your clicks in and out of Facebook; for Twitter, Settings / Security and Privacy, then uncheck the box for “Tailor ads...”; for LinkedIn, Privacy & Settings / Account / Manage Advertising Preferences.

In each of these cases, you won't receive ads based on your browsing, but you'll still be tracked, ostensibly for security reasons. (However, some sites, including Twitter, honor the Do Not Track setting found in your browser's privacy settings, which means it won't log)

Block all trackers

Every site on the internet is embedded with tracking cookies in the various pieces of content they contain – for example, ads, comment boxes, sponsored links. These cookies are placed by different ad networks comprised of myriad advertisers who get data on what sites you click on within particular ad networks. Anti-tracker browser plugins can prevent these cookies from “following” you around the internet.

What to do: Download an anti-tracker plugin such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy Badger, Ghostery, or Disconnect, which blocks tracking cookies to prevent ad analytics companies from building a grand profile of just where you like to go on the internet.

Use a proxy network

All of the above options are great for dodging tracking cookies that can give marketers what they need to create incredibly detailed profiles of who you are. But you can still be tracked and identified via the IP address of your browser. IP addresses can identify your approximate location, as well as how often you visit particular sites.

To regain a little more anonymity, a virtual private network (VPN) masks your IP address and reassigns you a new one, so that you appear to be surfing from a separate location. Each time you log into the VPN, you get a new IP address, preventing people (such as your employer, say) from monitoring what websites you visit.

In countries where certain sites are banned, such as China, many people make use of VPNs to surf via IP addresses that appear to be from another country, in order to access social media including Facebook.

What to do: Check out a free VPN such as CyberGhost which works on Mac, PC and Android; monthly plans from $5.83 (now from $2.91, as all plans are 50% off through 12/27/2015) if you want to use it on iOS, or want a faster connection.

Download a private, anonymous browser

Plugins, proxies and remembering to turn on private browsing can make for a cumbersome web experience. If you're willing to give up the comfort of your favorite browser, you can download a whole new browser that offers all of the above features – including the ability to turn on a proxy network through a switch in the toolbar.

The Epic browser is based on the Chrome browser but with privacy settings dialed up so that third-party cookies are automatically blocked, search and browsing history is never logged, and trackers are always blocked. You'll still see ads, but you won't be tracked – and the homepage displays a fascinating counter showing how many trackers tried to log your movements today.

What to do: Get Epic Privacy Browser. Privacy doesn't necessarily come at the expense of convenience – you can enable auto-fill to complete web forms with previously entered data (assuming it isn't a problem that someone else with access to your computer sees this), and though passwords can't be saved within your accounts' sign-in forms, you can download a password extension that does the work for you. 

Tor https explanation from EFF

Click for interactive graphic from the EFF

Go dark with TOR

For the deepest level of anonymity, check out the TOR browser, which distributes your internet traffic through a network of TOR servers (nodes) so that a website you visited can view only the IP address of the exiting node. Using TOR makes it very difficult for anyone to track you, but it does slow down browsing. It can be used for any kind of browsing that requires privacy and security, including visits to sites in the Deep Web not accessible by regular browsers. While these sites largely tend towards illegal activity and products, safe havens for whistle blowers and political dissidents also exist – and TOR is one of the only ways they can be accessed.

Use digital currency

Purchasing things online is a great way to tie your identity to particular profiles and websites – after all, you're using your credit card details. If you don't want certain purchases associated with a profile – for example, maybe you want to make a private donation to a controversial site such as Wikileaks - you should consider using a digital currency such as Bitcoin, which, like cash, isn't tied to any identifying details about you. 

However, because bitcoin transactions are public, a determined sleuth could track specific amounts to eventually build a profile about who's spending it – and tie it back to an individual. A growing crop of anonymity-focused digital currencies are rising, such as Dashcoin which claims to be the first anonymous currency. However, it's not as widely accepted as Bitcoin (which itself isn't exactly the next Mastercard).

At the end of the day, staying anonymous online takes extreme effort – tech giants and service providers go to great pains to make It very convenient and easy for us to display our movements and profiles in exchange for a free service. While there are benefits to being tracked, perhaps the key issue today is for people to realize that not only are free services at the expense of our privacy, but that our information is valuable – and we should question every company that requests it, invisibly or not.

Updated with new recommendations 12/8/2015



Discussion loading

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Brings up another question

From Louise on April 24, 2012 :: 2:13 pm

When asked if I want my login info to be remembered “for this site”,  will private browsing prevent this from happening.

It also begs another question.  Is someone picking up my login and password when I agree to this query?

Thanks.

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Yes, private browsing will prevent

From Josh Kirschner on April 25, 2012 :: 12:53 am

Yes, private browsing will prevent storing of usernames and passwords. Though it’s possible certain third party id/password vaults may not recognize the private browsing function on certain browsers and ask to store usernames and passwords.

When you agree to the query, the username and password are stored on your computer. The information won’t be transmitted to anyone else, but other people who use your computer with the same login will have access to those usernames and passwords.

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What do you think about

From Bordo on April 29, 2012 :: 2:18 pm

What do you think about this tool?
http://www.stayinvisible.com
A couple of times it detected my real IP even when I used proxy.

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What proxy are you using?

From Josh Kirschner on April 29, 2012 :: 10:53 pm

What proxy are you using? It couldn’t detect my info using the two proxy services we recommend above.

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Even Without VPN Logs

From Rod @ Anonymous Browsing on April 30, 2012 :: 2:17 am

It should be noted that even without activity logs, your online activity can still be pinned to you with a court order.  Any legitimate VPN service is going to keep “time logs” or “time stamps” to keep track of time you sign in and which IP addresses you use to locate abusive users (Spam, Cyber Crime, etc).

If an IP is associated with an activity that catches someones eye, and they contact your VPN service saying that X IP was doing Y activity, with a court order they can get your real IP and other personal information.  Happened with Lulzsec last year.  That was an example of catching a hacker, but with SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, we might all be accused of some sort of cyber crime in the near future.

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CISPA is next to remove all your privacy.

From AB on May 13, 2012 :: 12:39 am

CISPA is the new Patriot Act of the internet. All this privacy talk will be moot once providers are able to share your private and personal information freely without fear of repercussions. CISPA was fast tracked through the House of Representatives a week ago and all the big companies, especially the ones with your private info, are supporting it.

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Create your own identity or infinite identities

From Robert Owen on April 10, 2016 :: 6:33 pm

They have no control over light and love spirit, they are being purged and cleansed from this planet as we speak.The AI NWO lost the Cosmic war in space and here, back in 2008. You can view it on the US Navy’s Stereo Science Center which has a mountain of images and video, but a lot of what was captured by our FB-Group they coulnd’t mask.
Here is a link to their website and those of us who created what they could not mask.
RESOURCES

US NAVY SPACE CAMERA STEREO IMAGING
http://secchi.nrl.navy.mil

Star Wars recorded on NASA cams - The 2007 War vs Reptilians, Greys, Borgs .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6H5Cx_dC7no

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I've tried a few things

From JT on June 15, 2012 :: 4:05 pm

I’ve tried a few things to keep myself anonymous. TOR is hard to use or at least would be for most people. Web Proxies are easy but maybe only good for one off things, which should be good for post people. To keep the snoops off my stuff at home I just use private browsing with Firefox or Chrome. Easy. This is the age of over sharing so I guess its only a few of us trying to protect ourselves.

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proxy+SSH encrypted connections

From Mia Pray on June 21, 2012 :: 1:50 am

I use PirateRay to be anonymous and secure in the web.
The servers are protected and located in different countries of the world. This way I may unblock the sites if needed, hide my IP and privacy, download anything anonymously and be safe.

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Hotspot Shield hides your IP

From Mark Ackleys on September 17, 2012 :: 5:39 am

Hotspot Shield hides your IP address from snoopers and blocks any possible security threats from reaching your computer.
Check it out here: http://www.hotspotshield.com/secure-browsing

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To Christina

From Genevieve Fontana on September 19, 2012 :: 5:25 am

I find it really funny that Christina admits Tor can be used by Government and hackers to steal your data and yet still recommends it. Tor and all of it’s flavors have been shown to have bad security many times over.. just do a google search. Tor is popular but has a lot of Hype with it.

There are now some good Free VPNs that offer unlimited bandwidth, fast speeds and keeps no logs, such as VPNDirect Lite or Spotflux. VPNDirect will even let you download torrents. These coupled with only using Https encrypted sites or using Https Everywhere, is the way to go IMO.

JT

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will it help not to

From sojan on September 25, 2012 :: 5:19 am

will it help not to save it to my wired network, i mean the urls i accessed?

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It depends.

From Josh Kirschner on September 25, 2012 :: 8:08 am

If you’re just using the private browsing setting on your browser, the URL would still be visible through your local network. However, using one of the other services (web proxy, Tor, or VPN) will also make your destination invisible to your local network. People sniffing your local network would be able to see that you’re using one of those services, but not the URL you’re visiting.

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Doubt

From Ilaya on December 29, 2012 :: 4:44 am

how to save automatic my browsing website address to computer?

1. i am browsing for http://www.google.com

2. this address automatically save my computer in any location.

its possible my computer settings or i am using any one technology.

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Hi Ilaya,I'm not clear on

From Josh Kirschner on January 02, 2013 :: 2:30 am

Hi Ilaya,

I’m not clear on what question you’re asking. Do you want to save a website to your computer? That is, bookmark it? Or are you asking how your computer saves the addresses of which sites you visit and how to prevent that?

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Firefox annonymous browsing

From CJ on January 23, 2013 :: 1:26 pm

Update: just click on Firefox and select Start Private Browsing.

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ye sure, look at this

From lexa on March 09, 2013 :: 9:17 pm

ye sure, look at this security tests https://www.browserleaks.com/ and this https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser/design/, many of described things can leak even many of described things can leak in private browsing mode.

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I am wondering if you

From Beth on July 04, 2013 :: 8:37 pm

I am wondering if you can tell me if there is anyway to block anonymous browsers from visiting my website? I am not especially tech savvy. Thank you

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So, how do we access our "permanent file...?"

From PhootThaiMaiDai on July 23, 2013 :: 5:01 am

If our personal data, searches, purchases, etc are being stored by government agencies or third parties, I would think there should be some protocol to accessing your own file? How would we go about that? Any ideas? 

Curious what the they have compiled with my name on it, and who they’ve constructed me to be…

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What I'm most interested to

From Diane Dauphinee 150 on August 01, 2013 :: 10:28 am

What I’m most interested to discover about my DNA.  Health answers to pass on to 6 grandchildren.

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Not much tools worked in my current location

From Michael Maher on October 15, 2013 :: 6:23 am

Due to SPI firewall here in oman, I wasn’t able to use most of the VPN services until i bumped into this https://www.waselpro.com/en/ the SSH over OpenVPN one click thing worked for me perfect.

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With anonymous https://www.waselpro.com/en/ account you can bypass

From dinaafifi on October 31, 2013 :: 10:37 am

With anonymous https://www.waselpro.com/en/ account you can bypass with your PC or mobile all blocked web sites, watch TV online or listen radio.

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anonymous web surfing

From GenevieveBPrice on December 22, 2013 :: 8:25 pm

http://www.eanonymouswebsurfing.com

anonymous web surfing is a free proxy server,  allows you to hide your IP address, surf anonymously online & secure your internet connection. and also bypass any network from your government, school or workplace network. So you can unblock most popular social networking sites such as Youtube, Bebo, Facebook, Orkut and many other sites. it give you ability to surf the Web without being tracked.

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Simple Fast Web proxy

From Dave on February 27, 2014 :: 2:16 pm

Thought I would recommend http://googlewarriors.com

Hard in this day and age to find a fast free web proxy not plastered in ads or part of some other traffic funnel scheme.

Google Warriors is simple, fast, and completely ad free. Running on Nginx + PHP5 FPM + Varnish + APC it is always fast and unblocks all social sites and Youtube.

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Anonymous Private Bookmarking

From Tony on April 13, 2014 :: 5:06 pm

To go along with anonymous browsing there’s also anonymous private bookmarks with Unbookmark.com which doesn’t leave any trace on your machine and doesn’t require you to give out any information (no email, nothing) or installing any software.  It’s free and your bookmarks are accessible from all your devices simultaneously.

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The best way to stay Anonymous

From Anonymous on October 23, 2014 :: 9:51 am

TWO rules to succeed with it :

1. Never tell everythings

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helpfull

From javid on October 31, 2014 :: 3:58 am

helpfull

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for example

From Elam Time on December 20, 2014 :: 5:20 am

super free proxy site   : http://elamaff.com enjoy surfing wink

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super free proxy site elamaff

From Elam Time on December 20, 2014 :: 5:21 am

super free proxy site elamaff dot com enjoy surfing wink

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Web Proxies are Good

From Proxy men on February 11, 2015 :: 12:15 pm

Generally there are many ways to surf anonymously, but using web based proxies are best.

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anonymity

From Nigel on April 08, 2015 :: 6:16 am

Can anyone tell me the answer to this.
I do quite a bit of what is called matched betting, where one backs, for example , a horse to win at a bookmaker. You then bet against the same horse, ie bet it to lose, at a betting exchange. It is totally legal. However, how do I prevent the bookmaker seeing my history, ie stop them seeing I’ve bet against at an exchange?
Many thanks

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One CANNOT Hide

From Varun Sharma on April 13, 2015 :: 12:23 am

What I understand from this discussion is that ONE CANNOT Browse internet secretly - You are connected to the net through a VPN provided by your employer - No 100% FOOLPROOF way to prevent your employer from finding out what you have been browsing. However, I would like to understand that if I log out of the VPN and then browse using a proxy - will I still be traceable??
It is 100% sure that I dont intend to commit cybercrimes - I just want to browse porn with “complete anonymity”

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super article

From hidemyass review on August 02, 2015 :: 8:25 pm

i am use hidemyass vpn to get full anonymously ... thank you for this article

Reply

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Get Your Internet Privacy And Security With Fastest VPN

From Hider on August 07, 2015 :: 6:40 am

It’s a good information about how to browse safely on internet,  especially when you are more concern about competitor who is looking at your activity and want some confidential information from you , I will also add some more good information to this post that how you can secure your information using Fastest]http://www.fastvpnservice.com/”]Fastest VPN[/url]  and how this VPN will help you out in various ways for instance after connected with fastest VPN you will be securing the following info:
1. Personal identity
2. Secure your information from hackers and spying people who are always in thirst to grab others personal info
3. Unblock the geo-restricted content.
I hope this info will help you to get better understanding and worth of VPN Service.

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Hide before you get caught red-handed

From Roy on August 26, 2015 :: 1:49 pm

I built this chrome extension for this purpose.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/rdirect-plugin/dmpholkcpnngbjoacanififjdleamgop

Basically while you’re browsing, and you feel someone walk behind you, double click on any part of the page body to redirect at lightning speed to any desired page (you can set this beforehand in options)

Try it! Best used with vpn and incognito browsing smile

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Tor is more than fast enough today, avoid VPNs as their owners can rat you out to the government!

From Yusuf Islam on January 04, 2016 :: 1:25 am

The guy who posted ‘Tor is a mess’ in another related article is in all likelyhood a FBI|NSA|GCHQ|Mossad schill!  I am a computer scientist and have used Tor for at least 10 years so have seen how Tor has gone from being extremely slow to today whereby I can get 17Mbit/s via Tor.  Tell me what you would wish to do to anonymize your traffic which you cannot do with even 5Mbits/s!  So today Tor is extremely useable and quick.  Sure you won’t get your 30-100Mbit/s normal speed but unless you are streaming HD video constantly you really do not need such speed!  Anything more than 1 or 2Mbits/s will cater for all your IM, email, audio and video conversations.  The NSA hate Tor as its hard for them to spy on everyone if many poeple use Tor and this is why they have disinformation agents like this guy trying to disuade people from using Tor.  I say use Tor ALL OF THE TIME.  Stop the police state being created by the UK, Fr, USA, Canada, Australia, NZ and the other criminal states who are creating a ZIONIST JEW run New World Order to enslave the planet.  Look up THE PROTOCOLS OF ZION and you will find out the Jewish Freemasonic plan to enslave us all.  9/11, Lond 7/7, the recent attacks in France at end of 2015 were ALL done by ZIONIST JEWS, ISRAEL, USA, UK, France and ISIS is owned by ISRAEL these dumb ba****ds have nothing to do with Islam, they are a CIA, Mossad, MI6 operation.  People wake up before the Freemasons and Jews enslave you all!!!  USE TOR not VPN as a VPN owner can easily be blackmailed into revealing your real IP address and ID!!!

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Hasbara Troll?

From Disinfo on March 19, 2016 :: 6:29 pm

Yusuf sure sounds like a Hasbara Troll to me. 

Google it up, folks.  They are everywhere.

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Comment Anonymously.

From Ariffin on January 16, 2016 :: 11:42 pm

If we leave comment as anonymous, the chance to get published is none. So I guess, if you are a blogger it is hard to be anonymous on the internet .

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I clear everything but still they know it's me..

From Chris on March 19, 2016 :: 6:24 pm

Firefox user here.  Regularly clear all cookies, including flash cookies, multiple times per day.  Yet the news websites I visit still know how many pages I’ve viewed (they have an article limit before the paywall pops up).  How is that possible?

BTW, Despite what the somewhat kooky racist “Yusuf Islam” (Cat Stevens?) above says, I have read in more than a few places that the moment you start using TOR you are on the NSA’s radar and they look into you.  So I’d suggest doing some research on that one before using.  And no, I am not a “disinformation agent”, just a guy who reads.  In fact, maybe “Yusuf” is Mossad himself, trolling to confuse.  Wouldn’t be the first time…

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OUR DNA RECORDS ALL OF OUR LIFE'S CAUSE & EFFECT JOURNEY IN HALL OF RECORDS

From Robert Owen on April 10, 2016 :: 6:26 pm

We are represented by love that gives light as energy to our soul-spirit to which our entire journey over eons of time as a learning curve of truth we come to know, is recorded through our DNA and then captured and kept on file with the Hall of Records in Heaven above us.

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Bartender, I'll have two of

From Chris on April 10, 2016 :: 7:28 pm

Bartender, I’ll have two of whatever Robert is having..

; >

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Hide My IP The Cheapest & Reliable Way

From Laura Hopkins on April 20, 2016 :: 4:30 am

By surfing anonymously, no one knows who you are, where you’re connecting from or what sites you are visiting. You should check the features that Hide My IP provides. It’s good to not rely on Free ways.

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I don't agree with Proxy service

From James Potter on June 02, 2016 :: 5:37 am

I agree with all the things you mentioned in this article except proxy service. It is better to use a VPN like Ivacy VPN instead of a proxy service. Moreover, if a user use TOR he will not even need proxy service.

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