The ability of web surfers to conceal their identity through the use of a web proxy as a matter of privacy right and as a precautionary measure against spamming has become a raging issue between Internet anonymity advocates and detractors. The information concealed involves not only those that pertain to the user such as email and physical address but it includes as well information about his computer such as its configuration, the name and version of its operating system, name and version of the browser, who the Internet provider is and the geographical location of the computer. In today’s modern world, anonymizing a web surfer is both a boon and a bane depending on which side of the fence you are standing.
One of the most common ways to acquire Internet anonymity is through the use of an anonymous proxy. When a you connect to a website URL, your computer sends a request and the website server replies on the information it needs so that it will know which web pages it can open for you. One of the vital information that need to be sent to the website server is the unique IP address assigned to the you. From this piece of information, the web server will be able to determine your identity and location. A proxy acts as a go-between between your computer and that of the server of the website that you want to visit. If you wish to browse a website, all you have to do is connect to a web proxy, which in turn, will connect to the website and instead of sending your IP address to that site, the proxy will use its own IP address in requesting for files. By surfing the Internet incognito, the user takes away the ability of any web master to trace personal information and web activity back to the user.
Anonymity advocates maintain that it safeguards the right to free speech on the Internet because it allows the expression of ideas and opinions without fear of ridicule, harassment, threats or retaliation. This is true in forums or blogs where online discussion on sensitive topics or personal questions take place and the participants do not want to reveal their identity. The possibility of tracing web activities back to the user deters the submission of eye-witness reports on illegal activities through the Internet. The same is true in legal and medical forums where attorneys or doctors will not be able to candidily answer questions from clients and patients with similar legal or medical cases out of fear of being charged for violation of the doctor to patient or client to lawyer confidentiality.
Detractors on the other hand, argue that it promotes criminal behavior and protects illegal activities on the Net such as spamming, issuance of hate letters and threats. Moreover, sexual predators who hide behind the cloak of anonymity use Internet forums and social networks as a hunting ground for prey.