Privacy-concerned consumers desperately want a magic bullet, some simple thing they can use that will protect their identities and their web activity. And although there are a plethora of offerings today that make such a claim — VPNs, privacy-focused browsers such as Tor, privacy search engines such as DuckDuckGo, quite a few services that claim to anonymize anyone’s activity — the practical realities of human behavior make such privacy claims bogus.

Let me stress that almost all of these services do indeed help a person remain anonymous from the casual, untrained observer (the typical roommate, spouse, co-worker, boss, etc.). But any consumer who thinks that these tools will thwart a law enforcement agent, motivated cyberthief or identity thief, or anyone who is willing to spend the time to track you down is in for unhappiness.

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True privacy online is not viable