‘Clear History’ from your browser can be a thing of the past

People have all sorts of reasons for wanting to clear their browser history – from hiding their visits to websites that a spouse or partner might be displeased to see, or maybe hunting for a job website and concealing that visit from their boss.

But in reality, you can browse the internet without having to clear your search history while keeping your web activity private from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) at the same time. It’s true that it’s easy enough to use ‘incognito’ mode on Google Chrome or ‘Private Browsing’ on Safari, but all these visits merely aren’t saved into your device’s browsing history and cookies aren’t kept on the device. However, your ISP will still have a record of your website visits, the time, duration and content, even cross-page internal website tracking and your searches, maybe such as ‘how to update your firestick’. ISP’s use this information to sell to the highest bidder.


Data – the new digital gold

People’s online data such as search history, online shopping purchases and website visits is known by ISP’s as ‘digital gold’ – because data is worth more than precious metals and stones to data brokers; they sell everything about you to companies that want to offer you their services, and those companies pay handsomely for the privilege.

The good news is that there is a way around all these issues simply by using a browser extension known as a VPN or Virtual Private Network. A VPN is effectively nothing more than a third party server with an encrypted connection that sits between your device, whether that’s a Phone, a Windows laptop or an i-Pad; and that server anonymizes your internet use completely, blocks out cookies and protects your machine from malware, ransomware and the like. Let’s not forget that Google isn’t the only search engine in the world, others provided by Microsoft, Apple and other independents offer a variety of anonymity and specialisms. You may well not have heard of many of these, but in no particular order some popular alternatives are:

  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Ecosia
  • Brave
  • Yahoo!
  • Qwant
  • Swisscows
  • Search Encrypt
  • StartPage
  • SearX
  • Yandex
  • Gibiru
  • Disconnect

Many of these Google alternatives offer anonymity and non-recording of searches to user accounts, which many people prefer over Google and Bing. In fact, Swisscows, the EU search engine has a neat strapline in their marketing blurb: “At Swisscows you will find everything you are looking for without being found.” That’s got to be a mooooooov in the right direction from udder search providers!

Using a VPN also prevents your data from being ‘throttled’ by ISP’s under their fair usage policy – whereby if you use more than a certain amount of data per month, they slow your connection to a crawl so you can’t stream movies and music. Using a VPN effectively means that your ISP doesn’t know who is accessing the streaming service, so they can’t throttle your data.


Your murky past may catch up with you…

This brings us back neatly to the browsing history issue mentioned above. It’s important to remember that your search and browsing history is recorded by default in two places. Firstly, on your device and secondly via your ISP. Using a VPN browser extension neatly prevents that activity being recorded in both places automatically. However, if you have an unfaithful partner (or even suspect that they might be!) a VPN won’t help if your boyfriend or spouse grabs hold of your phone and starts trawling through your Facebook or WhatsApp messages. If you’re a love rat, and you leave your phone or laptop unlocked, you’re going to get flushed away into the sewers with the other cheats, so hold that thought!


Location restrictions

Moving from personal issues to more weighty business matters, a VPN can also effectively mask your geographical location, and some important governmental and / or community services are only available on the internet to residents of certain countries. For example, since the United Kingdom left the European Union in 2020, UK and Swiss businesses are no longer eligible for certain innovation grants like the Horizon program. But, if a company were to use a VPN to access the Horizon form, they could create a virtual headquarters anywhere in the EU, by accessing the Horizon EU platform from an appropriate server with an EU IP address via a VPN.


Can that spam!

But there’s one internet-related problem that neither a VPN nor any computer can fix, and that’s being bombarded with emails. Once spammers have got your address, it’s time consuming and deeply annoying to constantly delete spam emails. Just as bad can be the legitimate emails you receive if you’re a busy professional. There are many schools of thought about how you can deal with e-mails, whether you’re a reader, an out of hand delete person or a procrastinator! At least if you’re accessing webmail by a VPN your ISP can’t tell how many hours a day you spend answering those pesky messages!

Leave a Reply