People have been becoming more concerned about privacy in the past few years. While some still echo the sentiment that if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be worried about privacy, others understand that giving away your personal information freely can create issues down the road.
As social media websites thrive on collecting data, it’s not that they are the primary source of concern in regards to privacy. Facebook users in particular are the ones that want to start their anonymity journey as the platform has had some devious, if not shady, practices in the past.
While you can’t fully and completely protect your privacy if you use the platform, browsing Facebook anonymously is at least partly possible. We’ll go over all of the methods and the reasons why you should be doing so in this article.
Reasons to stay anonymous on Facebook
Giving over some data in order to participate in a social network is part of the process. Yet, there’s an implicit expectation among all users that the company to whom the data is handed to will do everything in their power to protect it and not abuse it.
Facebook doesn’t have such a great track record in doing so. In the late 2010s the Cambridge Analytica scandal happened.
In short, due to lax privacy protection standards, Facebook leaked data of millions of people to a private company. The company was only supposed to acquire data from specific people who signed up to their app. Instead they also got the information of every participant’s friends.
Cambridge Analytica wasn’t the only run-in with the abuse of personal data. Reportedly, Facebook had once struck a deal with phone manufacturers that essentially handed over the personal data of their users. There have also been other similar events that showcased Facebook’s cavalier attitude towards leaks.
In fact, Wired had once collected all of the personal data related scandals Facebook was involved in over just one year. They tallied up 21 counts before the year had ended.
While nothing can be said for certain about Facebook’s data management practices, getting an extra layer of protection against the social platform seems reasonable. After all, even if Facebook isn’t at fault, history shows that data gets leaked. If it does, it can cause a lot of trouble for you.
Anonymous Facebook Browsing: 5 Tips
Before continuing on, we should mention two important things. First, there’s two different routes of anonymity - one to prevent the platform from gaining data and the other to prevent other Facebook users. We’ll be talking primarily about the former. After all, the latter is a lot easier to manage.
Second, there’s no way to protect your account fully. There will always be some data you are giving over to Facebook. It’s simply part of being on the platform. There’s still a lot you can do in order to protect your Facebook account, though.
Use temporary emails and phone numbers
One of the most important details you leave on your Facebook account is the email and phone number. For hackers and anyone who wants to use leaked data, these are the most valuable data points.
There are numerous services available that provide temporary emails. However, one of the easiest options is to simply register a new email address with any known provider. Put in any details you want. If you use the email only for Facebook, there will be no data related to it.
Phone numbers can be a little harder to access. For some people, Google Voice can be a great option. Yet, you probably don’t want to give away data again just to another company. For these purposes, buying a SIM card from anywhere does just fine.
Maximize privacy settings
Facebook provides you with the opportunity to set some privacy settings. They used to be heavily criticized for making it extremely difficult to control sharing. Over time they made it easier to restrict the amount of sharing you do.
These will only help a little, though. There’s a few important ones such as Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?, but most of them simply deal with the amount of sharing you do with other people. You will, for example, be able to restrict who is able to send you friend requests.
But if you want to protect your account from Facebook themselves, you will have to add in the other options in this list.
Use Facebook proxies
Facebook proxies are the primary way to hide your information from the company. While many people use it to manage multiple accounts and avoid bans, they work just as well for privacy.
Essentially, Facebook proxies are other people’s computers or devices that are connected to the internet. These people use software that allows others to connect to websites through their devices. In short, instead of sending your connection request directly to Facebook, it is first routed through a household device.
That accomplishes several things. First and most importantly, the IP address is changed. Facebook thinks that the connection request came not from your computer, but from the proxy. So, the company can no longer use your IP address for tracking purposes.
Additionally, since the device is located somewhere else, Facebook thinks you’re connecting from a different place as well. In fact, in most cases, the proxy will be in another country entirely. As such, Facebook is likely to be completely confused.
Use a VPN
VPNs essentially perform the same function as proxies, but cannot achieve maximum anonymity. They are based on the same technology, save for two primary differences.
First, VPNs mostly use business IP addresses and servers. As such, social media sites have no problems detecting that someone is using a VPN. In fact, some may ban accounts or make using the platform a lot more difficult if you use a VPN.
Additionally, the selection of servers is limited even with the best providers. At best, there will be a couple of hundreds of servers in the most popular locations in the world. Less popular destinations (say, Eastern Europe) will have just a few servers. That’s not great for anonymity.
As such, VPNs can work as the “easy way out”. They do provide some protection, but they won’t be as good as a properly used proxy. They are, however, easier to use as they are just “plug and play”. You don’t need to tinker with your browser’s settings.
Tor browser is the final option. Again, it’s the same underlying technology with a few extra tweaks for building a secure connection. Tor browser uses a specialized technology called onion routing. In short, It’s the onion version of proxies.
It’s called onion routing because Tor uses a technology that’s similar to the vegetable. Each connection request is obscured by several layers that comprise the Tor network. Each layer is peeled by the next relay (which is another computer or device). That relay only sees the source and the destination of the request instead of the entire thing.
As a result, no relay in Tor network ever knows the full nature of the request. Additionally, since it’s sent over several relays (which are essentially proxies), the IP address and location is obscured as well.
There is one primary drawback of the Tor browser - it’s horribly slow. While it has gotten better over the years, it’s still nowhere near acceptable ranges for daily use. Tor browser can take minutes to load a simple page and even then it might be broken. So, it’s likely you’ll be staring at the address bar and a blank browser page for minutes at a time.
On the other hand, if you can stomach the slow speeds, Tor is very reliable and a great tool for anonymity. In fact, it was created exactly for that. Additionally, Tor works on Android and many other platforms, making it simple and easy to use.