You might feel secure when using the internet on your phone or tablet, but the sad truth is that all your activities could be monitored by a number of interested parties. To put a stop to this here are a few different ways to stay anonymous while using your Android device online.
Is private browsing mode actually private?
The most obvious place to start is with the web browser you already use. Most offer some kind of private or incognito mode, which promise to forget any sites you’ve visited, but these are not quite as safe as they might sound.
While the searches won’t be stored on your device, they will still be visible to your Internet Service Provider, the websites you visit, or your employers if you’re using a work connection.
Also, any downloads you make remain in your downloads folder after you’ve finished browsing, so you’ll need to remove those manually.
If you only want to keep things private from other members of your household then the private modes are fine. If you want to keep things private to the parties we’ve mentioned above then you’ll want to use a VPN service as well. We’ll cover that below.
To enable the private mode on your browser follow these instructions.
On Chrome you’ll find it in the upper right corner with the icon of three dots.
Tap this then select New incognito tab from the menu. The frame of the browser will now be dark and you’ll see a little hat and glasses icon in the status bar at the top.
In Microsoft’s Edge browser you’ll need to tap the three dots in the bottom right corner, then select New InPrivate tab from the options that appear.
While the normal Firefox browser has a private mode, we’d recommend you download a different browser: Firefox Focus, which is permanently in that state.
Which is the most secure web browser for Android?
While the mainstream offerings have private modes, there are some that are built from the ground up to protect your privacy and anonymity online.
StartPage is one of our favourites, as it boasts a zero-data collection policy that means the browser doesn’t store any information about you, including your IP address, which is often how websites know who or where you are.
This is bolstered by SSL encryption so your ISP won’t know what you were searching for, and all browsing history is ‘scrubbed and anonymized’ to ensure you are protected.
StartPage is completely free and an easy way to curtail any snooping from overly nosey parkers.
Other good options are Orbot: Tor for Android, which features a built-in VPN, and if you want to stop sites tracking you then Ghostery or DuckDuckGo are fine choices.
Why you should use a VPN for mobile web browsing
If you don’t want to swap browsers, or just want to add even more layers of protection, then a VPN is the way to go. These Virtual Private Networks create a secure, encrypted tunnel through which you connect to the web.
This makes is virtually impossible for hackers to see what you’re up to.
There are a number of excellent paid services, such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN, plus several free options too, as you’ll see in our Best VPN for Android roundup.
For more details on how to secure your online activities read our guide on how to use a VPN on Android.
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