Most people don’t think about it, but everything you do online can be tracked. It’s how ad networks know what you’ve been searching and are able to predict what products you might be interested in, and it’s how websites know when to cut you off from their content due to geographical restrictions.
This is all done through your IP address. Your IP address is like an identification number connected to your device that tells websites where your Internet traffic is coming from. Companies like Google can keep long records of your search history by connecting each of those searches to your IP address.
The good news is that there are ways to mask your IP address to maintain your privacy online. It starts with connecting to a virtual private network (VPN), which creates a secure connection to their servers. They can route your activity through their network to give your packages of data a new IP address. A good VPN service won’t log your activity, so there won’t be any way for someone to track your browsing data back to you.
There are plenty of reasons you might want to use a VPN and hide your IP address. Here are just five reasons to get you started.
You may not realize that when you signed up for Google or Facebook, you gave these companies permission to track your browsing history in order to serve you relevant advertisements. This type of targeted marketing might seem convenient to some people, but others will find it intrusive.
If you’re uncomfortable with ad networks like this watching your every move online, you don’t have to stop using their tools completely. Instead, hide your IP address with a recommended VPN like CyberGhost or PIA and they won’t be able to tell that the searches are coming from your device.
Like ad networks, Internet service providers (ISPs) can track your online activity through your IP address. There are currently no restrictions in the United States that stop ISPs from doing so. This can put your data at higher risk because most people have no choice with their ISPs whereas they do have a choice in which ad networks to use.
Though your ISP may protect your data now, they could turn around and start selling it without your explicit consent. By handing over your browsing history to advertisers and marketing analysts, they’re now profiting off more than just your monthly Internet bill.
Hiding your IP address prevents this data tracking. When you connect to a VPN, the only thing your ISP can see is that you’ve connected to that network. Everything beyond that—including your searches and the new IP address you’ve been assigned—will be protected from your ISP’s prying eyes.
If you work in a profession where you conduct a lot of sensitive research, you may not want that research traced back to you. This might be the case with journalists, law enforcement, political candidates, celebrities, and more. Hiding your IP address keeps these searches private and anonymous.
It’s no secret that some countries keep an eye on their citizen’s Internet activity, and there’s no guarantee that others won’t start doing so in the future. You may be doing nothing wrong, but that doesn’t mean you want the government to be able to freely spy on you. If you value your privacy, use a VPN to hide your IP address from the government so they can’t see what you’re up to.
If you don’t live in the US—or if you’re traveling abroad—you might have a difficult time accessing various websites and services. Streaming services such as Netflix, for example, limit the content available to international users due to copyright laws.
However, masking your IP address can help you get around these barriers. Your IP address is tied to your location, but if your VPN provider routes your data through a server in another country, it will look as if the traffic is coming from that new location. The website or streaming service won’t know you’re actually located in another country, so it will unlock these content restrictions for you.
Hiding your IP address is a matter of principle. If you want your Internet activity to stay private, then you’ll want to use a VPN. Not only do VPNs hide your IP address, but they’ll encrypt your data to add an extra layer of security to your Web browsing.