I occasionally visit Web sites that I don’t want to be tracked by my apps, cellphone provider or anyone if I’m on a wifi network. Is there a way to anonymously surf the Web from my smartphone?
It’s smart to be aware of privacy and confidentiality issues when you’re exploring the Web nowadays. Services we believed were private have proven not to be, and the old wisdom of “you’re just one out of millions, how are they going to track you?” has proven false too. Suffice to say, if you want to be private and anonymous on the Internet today, you have to take matters into your own hands and change your habits to increase your privacy. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools to help you out.
One of the most obvious is to simply install a Virtual Private Network program on your Android phone; start that VPN and it’ll mask all of your Internet traffic in and out of your phone, even from third-party apps unrelated to your Web browser. If you want to go the VPN route, I always recommend ExpressVPN, which I find fast, flexible, and, because I pay for the service, it’s truly anonymous with no traffic logging on their relay systems. (beware of “free” VPN services, for sure).
But maybe you don’t want to utilize a VPN and just want to occasionally go anonymous with your Web browser. Okay. You can do that. The easiest option is Incognito mode on Google Chrome, but if you just don’t trust Google (and I totally get that sentiment if that is your viewpoint) then there’s a great browser called Tor that lets you access the multiple-relay “Onion” router network for maximal privacy. Tor is great if you’re overseas and worried your desired site will be censored too. Let’s check them both out.
INCOGNITO MODE IN GOOGLE CHROME ON ANDROID
Chrome is the default Web browser for all Android devices, so you’ve probably been using it all along without realizing that it has an “anonymous” mode that they call Incognito. But it’s just a tap away:
See that second entry? A tap on “New incognito tab” and you’ll have a new window in your Chrome browser that isn’t logged, won’t accept cookies, and doesn’t show up in your browser history. Google explains it this way:
It says: “Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads and bookmarks will be saved.” In other words; don’t download files while in incognito mode and don’t bookmark cool sites you visit because those won’t be protected by the Incognito shield.
Note: Most of the screenshots I show in this article are literally photographs of the phone screen taken with another smartphone. In incognito mode you cannot take screen captures, for obvious privacy reasons.
Tap on the Web address area on the very top, and you can now visit a Web site like the FBI without leaving a trace…
Not good enough? Still don’t really trust Google to truly anonymize your visit? Then you’ll be interested in Tor.
ANONYMOUS WEB BROWSING WITH TOR FOR ANDROID
Tor (an acronym for The Onion Router, actually) is a very interesting project that you can read up on and learn about if you’re so inspired: About the Tor Project. Suffice to say, it’s the best option I know of for anonymous use of the Web, whether you’re on a Mac, PC, Android or iPhone. You do, however, have to download and install the program on your phone…
This means you need to start by searching for “Tor” in the Play Store:
It’s popular too, with over 10 million downloads. That’s a lot! You can also see that the Play Store is suggesting Brave as an alternative browser. Tor is still more secure, but Brave is a solid option for a replacement default web browser for your device, if you’re so inclined.
A tap on “Install” and after a few moments it will download and you can tap to open the new program. You’ll see this:
You can dial in even higher levels of security if you prefer, but I use “Standard” since I’m not too worried about being inadvertently tracked or leaving a crumb or two from a page visit. Ready to try it? Tap on the search box on the bottom and enter a Web site address. Like the official Whitehouse Web page:
Notice the very top too, as it’s the error you’d see if you did try to take a screenshot of a page in Tor: “Couldn’t save screenshot: Taking screenshots isn’t allowed by the app or your organization.” That’s good.
And that’s the deal. A VPN for a broad solution to anonymity and privacy across all your Web browsing, Incognito within Chrome if you trust Google, or Tor if you want to try a different and very privacy-centric browser alternative.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Android since the beginning. Please check out my rather extensive Android help area while you’re visiting for lots more useful tutorials and guides! Thanks.