Being the buzzword that it is today, privacy tends to be up top on the list of a lot of people’s concerns. And, privacy concerns come in many forms – tracking, spying, or data collection from your online accounts. A new device called Safeplug aims to address the first two by masking your computer’s IP address, preventing your Internet activity from being associated with you.
Safeplug is a small box that connects to your home router. Once that’s done, you need to go to a Safeplug webpage to activate the device, which will ensure that all of your Internet activity is disguised from there on out. How does it do that? Safeplug uses the Tor network. If you have heard of Tor, you probably know that you can go install it for free right now, and you probably don’t need to read any further. If you haven’t, here’s a rough explanation of what Tor does.
Normally, your Internet traffic goes from point A to point B – point A being your computer, Point B being whatever your destination website is (Chip Chick, Google, Facebook, Twitter, lolcats, etc). There’s a lot of technical processes going on, too, but that rough sketch sets up what Tor does nicely. Tor takes traffic from Point A (you) and swings it around to Points B, C, D, E, and F before finally ending up at Point G (your destination website). Every time your traffic hits a new point (a server located somewhere in the world), the previous IP address is not logged. Usually, when you go to a website, that website knows the request is coming from the IP address of your computer. With Tor, all that website will see is the IP address from the previous server in the chain – not yours. If that sounds daunting to install and maintain, grabbing the Safeplug might make getting the desired result a little easier on you, since you shouldn’t need to worry about keeping Tor up-to-date – the Safeplug and Pogoplug’s service will take care of that.
There are a few things to note if you go with Safeplug. One is that, because your traffic is getting bounced around to more locations, web browsing will be noticeably slower than before. Not overly so, but you’ll notice a slight decline. Second, Safeplug and Tor will not completely disguise your identity online. If you go to a site like CNN and just read some news, your identity will be disguised. Of course, if you go to Facebook and log in to your account, Facebook will know it’s you – Tor only protects your identity in places where you don’t sign in with account details. That’s not a failure on the part of Tor – it’s just part of the cost of having online accounts. Third, you might have some problems if you try to use sites like Netflix – you could get notifications suggesting that you’re located outside of the United States. You’re not, but the Tor server last in line might be located elsewhere, which would cause the problem.
If you don’t mind those issues, Safeplug (and Tor) will do the job of anonymizing your web traffic well. It’s not perfect, but it’s a sight better than not using anything at all when it comes to privacy on the web. Safeplug is selling now for $49.