How To Stay Anonymous On The Internet

updateIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Whether you’re feeling curious, social, or bored, the Internet can be a great outlet, connecting you to other people and information. But, some of the things that make it great can also make it dangerous. The risks range from the banal (remember that embarrassing photo taken of you at Kayla’s crazy 21st? Well, it’s still on Facebook, and your new coworkers think it’s hilarious), to the truly harmful (your identity stolen, your accounts drained). Whether you just want to improve your online reputation, or give stalkers less fodder, here are some ways to curate your online presence to be sure you’re showing only what you want — to only the people you want.
Update Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Everyone knows a cautionary tale about social media info finding its way into the wrong hands, so updating your privacy setting is the easiest way to stop it from happening to you. Of course, you set up your privacy preferences when you first joined a site, but they tend to change, so it’s worth checking. Most social media sites have settings to make you unsearchable. On Facebook, you can limit who sees your photos, or who can post publicly on your wall. Twitter and Instagram enables you to only show your posts to your followers. Don’t forget places where you post your pictures, like Picasa or Flickr!
Most of these sites also track your location by default. You can turn them off each time you post by tapping the small arrow, or in your privacy settings on your account or device.
googleIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Googling Yourself
Searching your own name is no longer just an ego trip — it’s like peering in the Internet mirror, making sure you look all right to the people who see you.
If you’re flabbergasted by one of your top Google hits, fear not: You can (probably) get it removed. Sometimes you can take it down yourself by changing your privacy settings. If it’s a friend or someone you know who has posted the content, you can simply ask them to take it down. Google has a pretty nice form to help you figure out who to contact to prevent future embarrassment.
If you want certain things to come up more readily in your personal Google search — say, your professional web site, as opposed to your ancient MySpace page — now you’re talking about some Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If it’s your personal web site, for example, you can make sure that your page has certain keywords, and that your name is displayed prominently. If you write anything, from a travel blog to professional journalism, you can sign up as a Google Author.
hideIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Hide In Plain Sight
Whether you’re avoiding someone in particular or just feeling antisocial today, you can finally use your existing social media networks to help you stay away from people you don’t want to see. The app Cloak connects to Foursquare, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to show you when one of your frenemies is nearby. You can choose to flag certain people and have Cloak warn you when they’re within a half-mile radius. It can only warn you about those who have their location services turned on, though, so it’s not exhaustive.
stealthIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Stealth Browse The Web
We all get curious and search for some weird, weird stuff. And, sometimes it’s nice to not worry about your significant other happening across your questionable browser history. For those delicate searches, you can put your browser in Incognito mode. It doesn’t save your history, plus it deletes any cookies you may have inadvertently saved. For Google Chrome, you can click the icon in the menu bar and choose “New Incognito Window” — you’ll know you’re successful if you see the little stealthy icon.
This post was authored by Alexandra Ossola.

More from Tech

Pokémon Go was this year's biggest app sensation. Within 24 hours of its launch, the game became a mega hit and has since seen users walking billions of ...
For the second time this month, earthlings of the Western Hemisphere will experience a special event involving our moon. Earlier this month, we got our ...
If you want to look up information about your favorite celebrities, your first instinct is probably to google them. But depending on who you're curious ...
GENERATION STARTUP presents Women In Tech, an episode of an exclusive web series with footage left on the cutting room floor. The feature documentary ...
Complaining today is much easier than it used to be. Lost luggage, bad service, extra charges, broken products — you used to have to put a letter in the ...
It's Google's 18th birthday which means it can finally see all the porn it serves up
Tonight marks the first of three presidential debates between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Because of the debate's close proximity to New...
(Paid Content) Refinery29 is now on Versy, a messaging and content-sharing app made for busy people like us
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) developed a phone app that will assist you in recording and reporting police conduct. The app, Mobile Justice, ...
If you aren't registered to vote, don't panic. As a matter of fact, thanks to Snapchat, you can now do it in just one minute, reports Time. The social-...
You may start to notice your Uber drivers snapping a lot of selfies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're riding with an Instagram addict. Your ...
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel announced that the company has developed new video-enabled sunglasses, called Spectacles, and will subsequently be rebranding ...
You're at 20,000 feet, and you realize your flight doesn’t have WiFi — which wouldn't be a big deal, except you forgot your book at home, and none of your ...
It's a sad but true fact that a bad commute — one where you just miss the bus or subway — has the power to ruin your day. More often than not, these near...