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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What is Anonymizer and do I need to worry about it?

I received an e-mail today from a concerned parent asking me about Anonymizer and  She had heard some rumors about this product/site and was wondering if it were something she needs to look out for.  The short answer is no.

Today, Anonymizer is a software product that you can buy to hide your personal information from the websites you visit.  Whether you know it or not, many websites collect personal information about you and your computer every time you visit them.  They then assign this information to a unique identifier that they store on your machine.  With those two bits of info, they can do stuff like show ads for Nike if they see you visit ESPN a lot.  Get it?  Anyway, Anonymizer prevents them from seeing your personal info (what city you are logging in from, what kind of computer you have, what sites you have visited, etc.).  Actually, it sounds like a good thing right?  Don't rush out and buy it yet.

The rumors that this parent had heard about Anonymizer were that if her kids got online through the website, they could go to objectionable sites and her filtering software wouldn't detect it.  This rumor was actually true...10 years ago.  But not today.  Years ago, Anonymizer had a free web app that allowed you to browse the web and visit any site anonymously.  The sites knew nothing about you and most filtering software thought you were just on the Anonymizer website, not the objectionable site that Anonymizer was funneling to you and therefore did nothing to block it.  It was also a way for kids to get around their schools' filtering software and visit whatever site they wanted.  When I taught at Finneytown, we had an issue with this.

But that's all ancient history now. doesn't have this app any longer, probably because it was a maintenance nightmare on their end.  All the website does is try to sell you their software (  The software itself does not circumvent your (or your school's) filtering software and in fact, it has some parental controls of it's own built in.  But like I said before, don't rush out and buy it.  Internet Explorer 8 has the same functionality for free.  It's called "In Private Browsing" and it's accessible via Tools --> InPrivate Browsing.   And no, there is nothing to worry about with it either.  Your filtering software or parental controls will still filter the sites.

So Susan, thanks for the question but rest easy.  You've got nothing to worry about with anonymous surfing.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, Thanks for answering my question about Anonymizer. One less thing to worry about.