educational

Anonymous Web Surfing

James Edwards
When we go window shopping or walk by a storefront, our every move and glance is not mapped and recorded, with our physical address pasted on our shirt or blouse. Yet when users surf the net, browsing for their heart's desire, every click and page request is recorded, and a physical address is logged in the form of an IP address.

The most basic information we carry with us to the Internet is the IP address. The IP address can be used to find out who we are and where we live. It is stunning how less private our lives are online than in the traditional storefronts of main street. This total lack of privacy has driven many in the adult industry and other controversial niches of the Internet to regain their privacy rights through the use of technology.

Search engine results will even vary depending on whether we have a Swedish IP address vs. an Iowa IP address. Certain sites blocked by one ISP will magically appear and the overall search will be weighed differently. This is all based on, not what you are looking for, but who you are — your IP address.

Although learning how to be anonymous is important, many adult content providers would argue that cookies and other tracking devices are essential to serving their customers most efficiently. Any online store that has your past spending habits recorded can tailor their website more to your liking. Regardless, many adult entertainment fans use anonymous tools when surfing the web and it behooves the adult webmaster to learn them also.

Privacy by Proxy
A fun way to get started with anonymous web-surfing is to simply try it. The first aspect of anonymous surfing is the proxy server. When you surf anonymously, your browser does not ping IP addresses and pull up web-pages directly — instead you point your browser to a proxy server. This is a remote computer that will serve as a middleman between browser requests and the Internet web servers of the world.

For instance, as an adult webmaster, you might want to post controversial articles, without any chance of nefarious forces finding out who you are. After all, this is your right. With a proxy server, your anonymous posts will not trace back to your personal IP but instead to the IP address used by the remote proxy server.

Normally for state-of-the-art privacy, a web-surfer pays a proxy service for the right to login and gobble up bandwidth. Sites like findnot.com and anonymizer.com are examples of proxy services. Once you have set up an account, you can login to their servers and surf the web anonymously. The advantage of a paid proxy service is that it is faster and comes with more features than a free proxy. This disadvantage, aside from the fact it costs money, is that even the act of paying for something online diminishes your privacy.

Free proxy sites are fun to try, but notoriously slow. These sites come under constant attacks and change based on the whims of their keepers. Because of this hostile environment, a free-proxy surfer will need to find updated links that list current free proxy sites around the world. One such site is proxy4free.com.

The interesting thing about this site is that it lists the country of origin of these proxies. We might see some very questionable nations on this list — such as Cuba, China, Vietnam and Yemen. It's best to avoid these proxies, since many of these sites actually fish for information, making your surfing experience less anonymous.

As mentioned earlier, by logging into a proxy in Sweden, the search engines of the world will recognize us as Swedish and send Swedish content to our web browser while adjusting the weight of our searches to fit the Swedish mindset. This is helpful when searching for resources or contacts in another country. Many times, USA-based browsers offer less accurate results when searching for foreign resources.

Tunneling Your Way to Privacy
Simply surfing the web via a proxy server will protect your identity, yet what about all the data that is being sucked back and forth between your computer and the websites you happen to be perusing?

As adult entertainers it behooves us to keep up with all the hot websites in the adult world. As we know, even doing innocent research into niches of adult entertainment will bring your browser into contact with very questionable content. If you pull this content from a website to your browser, the information will probably rest, at least for a time, on intermediate servers.

To erase this trail of questionable packets, SSL tunneling is used. SSL is an encryption standard developed by RSA. Normally it is utilized in credit-card processing for the transfer of sensitive data. Yet now, when surfing anonymously, all requests for data going between the Internet and your browser become sensitive — everything is encrypted. The browser uses this tunnel to communicate to the web.

Sites like secure-tunnel.com and megaproxy.com offer affordable SSL tunneling tools that will insure all the data you pull from the Internet will be encrypted until it reaches your PC or wireless device. The ironic drawback of this is obvious. You simply draw more suspicion to yourself by encrypting everything — if a government agency or someone else happens to be snooping.

Catch 22: Affiliate Programs and Privacy
Although anonymous web-surfing is a valuable tool for the online entrepreneur of adult content— it can also be a bane for the webmaster that draws his or her revenue from affiliate programs.

Most websites that pay affiliates do so based on referrals to their site from yours. Yet affiliate programs must also stop the unethical webmaster from simply clicking on links to gain bogus revenue. Affiliate programs must guard against this. Click services like Google Adwords are legally bound by court orders to guard against click-fraud that drains the wallets of their advertisers while sending more money to Google.

Sadly, the best way to guard against affiliate click-fraud is by using cookies. When a customer of your website clicks on an advertising link, the advertiser places a cookie on the customer machine to uniquely identify that computer. If the same computer clicks 1000 times on an affiliate link, the odds are it is not a valid customer but an attempt at click-fraud.

For instance, Americola.com, a celebrity fan site, uses cookies "to insure that users do not abuse our affiliate program by flooding our site with fake requests." Furthermore, to thwart click-fraud through proxy services Americola.com also "collects IP addresses to ensure that affiliate requests are unique and genuine." This common policy sadly implies that the anonymous surfer, even if a paying customer of your site, will not generate any affiliate revenue for you.

Balancing Act: Privacy vs. Sunshine
The final irony of online privacy is that it is both a necessity for the adult businessperson, yet possibly their greatest bane. On the one hand, it is essential in any controversial business, to protect your privacy and your right to anonymously exchange views and shop — yet these same tools that give the adult web-surfer privacy also can be the unraveling of that great stream of affiliate money that all adult webmasters covet.

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