Do you do things online that you would like to keep private? You might want to protect your privacy with a proxy server. The Internet gives people the illusion of privacy. You can surf unseen by others, use aliases and change email addresses as often as you want. But this does not equate to anonymity. Even if you never give away your personal information, your computer can.The Internet is nothing but computers connected to one another. When different computers hook up, they identify one another with unique series of numbers called IP addresses. IP stands for “internet protocol.” Think of an IP address as an identification number. In the earlier days of the Net, each computer had a unique, permanent IP address that it used to identify itself to other computers. Nowadays when you surf online via your Internet Service Provider, it most likely assigns you a dynamic IP address, meaning this number can change each time you sign in. You may be sharing that IP with others in the Local Area Network or LAN. If you check your assigned IP address online, you’ll get the server name and location.It doesn’t end there. Aside from the shared “public” IP address, your computer has a unique “private” IP address. Your ISP uses this to identify all the different computers/users using the network at any moment. The outside world sees only your public IP, but your server sees both the public and private IP. An ISP can keep usage logs for months, or even years. Your network administrator can find out from the logs which subscriber has been using the Internet, when and for what. School and office networks can keep track of you this way too.How to change your IP address then so you won’t be traced? Enter proxy servers. A proxy is like a messenger. It relays messages back and forth between you and the websites you’re viewing. But a simple proxy will announce your original (public) IP. To protect your privacy with a proxy, you will need an anonymous one. Such a proxy will serve as a virtual “mask” for you so you can surf, download files, chat, etc. without letting people know where you’re coming form.This doesn’t mean you’ll have absolute privacy. The bald fact is that you can never get 100% anonymity unless you stop using the Internet altogether. At most, a proxy gives you a higher level of protection that the average snoop won’t be able to hack. But proxies and ISPs alike keep records of your logs, and thus your real IP. Given a warrant from a judge, they could be compelled to disclose the information.You could secure yourself further with encryption software like PGP or BlowCrypt. But the best thing you can do is to avoid illegal activities online, with or without a proxy. If you do nothing wrong, there is less need to worry about your IP address.