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7 Ways to Lock Down Your Online Privacy

How to stay hidden while online

The National Security Agency, Google, cybercrooks — who knows who might be snooping on you?

These days, personal information that's more sensitive than ever is being stored on computers, smartphones and tablets.

It's important that you lock down your data to protect your privacy, and that includes data generated by Web-based activities, such as browser history, browser-tracking cookies and Internet Protocol addresses.

There are plenty of applications and other software to help you hide your online presence. But before you get started with them, bear in mind that there are some downsides to hiding your identity online.

"In most cases, you should just assume that you're being tracked, even if you're running the software," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the San Jose, Calif.-based market-research firm Enderle Group.

But if you use these tools more than once on certain sites, such as porn sites, there's a good chance that you'll be identified, Enderle said.

"They'll put a piece of malware on your box, or they'll trick you into installing it yourself, and there's a good chance you're going to bypass any of your security information and once you do that, they've got you," Enderle said.

MORE: How to Keep Your Smartphone or Tablet Secure

You should also recognize that a lot of criminals and terrorists use these methods to mask their identities. Hence, law enforcement is watching these types of activities.

"So even though you're not doing something illicit, you could easily be grouped with people who are," Enderle said.

"The very fact that you're using the same tools that criminals use to hide their identities could flag you into that group and put you under additional scrutiny," he added. "That additional scrutiny [by law enforcement] will penetrate whatever protection you have."

That said, here are seven computer and mobile applications that will help you hide your identity.