How do you maintain privacy on the Internet? If you're anything like me you probably don't like the idea of other people having access to things like your email and search history. Luckily there are options. I can't feasibly go into detail about setting up all of these solutions, but I can at least show you what you have to work with.

Web Browser

The first step in maintaining online privacy is understanding your browser's privacy controls. Most major browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, have options to configure what data gets stored on your machine, as well as an option to tell web sites not to track you. Features like tab syncing are convenient, but remember that information is being stored somewhere.

Search Engine

Most search engines keep some sort of history about your searches. If it's a search provider you are logged into, this history is probably linked to your account and not just the machine you're using. If you want to make sure your search history is private, use a search engine such as DuckDuckGo that doesn't store any information.


If you want to make sure no one can see what web sites you're visiting, then you want Tor. When using Tor, your browsing activity is hidden by routing through a series of proxies. Tor is available as a browser plugin, but you can also download a pre-configured browser bundle if you want a simpler option.

Instant Messaging

Keeping instant messages private is as simple as using a client with OTR (Off-the-Record) support. Pidgin has a solid OTR plugin and Adium has support out of the box. Setting up an OTR conversation is relatively automated, you'll just need to verify that the other user is who they say they are.


While instant messaging is typically secured through OTR, email tends to be secured with the more general purpose PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption. PGP is a a form of public-key cryptography that most mail clients support either natively or through plugins. Setting up PGP is more involved than OTR, but you can use it for encrypting anything.

Common Sense

All the technology that exists to help maintain your privacy is useless without some common sense on your part. Any data you send to a web service may be stored by that service and later exposed. It's up to you to make sure any data you send over the wire is either encrypted or safe to share with the world.