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Anonymous web browsing with ZeroNet

Anonymous web browsing with ZeroNet

Because it uses the BitTorrent network, which isn’t very anonymous at all, ZeroNet offers less “out of the box” privacy than some other options.

However, you can hide your IP address by using it in conjunction with the Tor Browser. There are instructions for how to do this here.

There are a number of benefits to ZeroNet, primarily that it is very fast and it lets you access hidden sites even if you have no internet connection. Sites are updated in real time, so you don’t need to refresh your browser to get the latest content, and there are some excellent sites to browse. As mentioned above, however, ZeroNet isn’t anonymous by default, and it can be overwhelming when you first start using it because the list of available sites constantly refreshes (sort it by English to make it more manageable). Because ZeroNet relies on BitTorrent, you work as a peer to serve the sites you visit, which uses some of your bandwidth. You continue serving them, too, until you pause or remove them.

Freenet

Freenet has been around for 20 years, so it predates other, similar services. It’s a peer-to-peer decentralised platform that lets you share files anonymously, chat on unmoderated forums and browse and publish so-called “free sites” that can only be accessed through Freenet.

If you’re wondering how anonymous you will be, the answer is “very”. As the site explains: “communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are routed through other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is”. There’s also a ‘darknet’ mode, which is where you only connect to your friends, making your activities even harder to detect.

Freenet’s purpose has always been to provide a private, anonymous service, and that remains the case today. You can chat on forums without fear of censorship, and publish and share files anonymously.

On the down side, it’s a peer-to-peer service. When you use Freenet, you contribute to the network by providing both bandwidth and a chunk of space on your hard drive. Popular content from Freenet is kept in this “data store” (in an encrypted format) and updated regularly. You can choose how much space to devote to it during setup.

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Would a VPN suit be better?

A VPN (virtual private network) is similar to Tor in that your traffic gets routed through its own servers, hiding sites you visit from your ISP and disguising your location. The main benefit of using a free VPN over Tor is simplicity – you can visit sites as you would normally, in your usual browser; and access geo-blocked content by choosing where to appear to be browsing from, whereas Tor assigns your location randomly.

On the downside, free VPNs come with data limitations – even the more generous, such as Windscribe, only give you 10GB of data a month – or there’s an ongoing cost of at least £3 a month if you use a paid-for service providing unlimited data and choice of servers. There are also privacy concerns, with reports of free services selling user data to third parties.

Both Tor and VPNs have their pros and cons, but combining the two gives you the strongest possible anonymity. However, you will definitely experience a noticeable drop to your browsing speeds if you do so

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