Using Proxies for Privacy

Some people are rightly concerned about their privacy online.  It’s not surprising as many of us run many aspects of our lives online now.  I’m sure I’m not alone with paying bills, managing my finances, arranging holidays using the internet.  In fact I’d be completely lost without an internet connection and I know my Wife and kids would be too.  Unfortunately with the benefits also comes some risks that all the data we transfer online somehow gets intercepted or lost.

In fact it’s probably a bigger risk that you would imagine mainly because of HTTP.  Hyper Text Transfer Protocol is the language most of our web browsing uses.  Your web browser sends a request using HTTP for a web page and the web site responds in the same language.  It’s a fast and efficient protocol which allows different browsers, OS’s and computers to interact with each other.  However it’s main problem is it is has no concept of security, all the transfers take place in clear text.  So in theory any body who sees the data can read it, seeing as web traffic travels over a myriad of shared computer infrastructure that is very likely to happen.

Using Proxies for Privacy

Now many people think that using a proxy server can help with security and to some extent that’s true.  However it’s not the whole story and a basic proxy server won’t help you that much.  What you need is a proxy server that adds a level of security to your connection as well – this can only be done by encrypting your traffic.  Take for example the two services on this post about  – How to Get a US IP Address.  Although the primary function of this article is to provide you with an American address so you can access US only sites like Pandora and Hulu – they do actually protect your connection.

This video shows a similar process but is to do with watching US Netflix, again by obscuring your real location and IP address.

One is a simple VPN which is encrypted by default and the other uses an SSH tunnel to add an encryption function the connection.  So unlike most proxies the ones provided by the companies mentioned do help.   The encryption level certainly adds a level of protection and privacy, but there can be some drawbacks.  If for example you’re attempting to run multiple identities online for web scraping or perhaps using some limited advertising resource, it may not be a great idea to encrypt your connection.  For sure, it will add a layer of privacy but it will also stand out from most other users.  Most people don’t encrypt their traffic or connections so that may be enough to set of flags on some sites.

The next generation of proxy services will allow you to encrypt or use non-encrypted connections as required.  If total anonymity is required then you can turn on encryption, if you’re trying to run multiple accounts for things like eBay, Craigslist or Instagram then you can turn it off if you wish.  If you think it makes no difference, for example if you’re trying to watch BBC iPlayer through a VPN then you just need a reliable UK based server for it to work.

Without the encryption layer all you are doing by using a proxy is obscuring your address from the web server your connecting to.  Which of course is enough for many people, but please don’t think it provides you with any security as it’s simply not true!