Everything you do online is connected to your IP address. It is what identifies you with the rest of the computing world.

Think of the IP as the online version of your house and street number. However, in both cases, sometimes you don’t want to be so easily found. In the latter case, you could get a post office box to prevent others from knowing your street address. Fortunately, there are several ways you can hide an IP too. So why would you want to do that?

Keep Your Physical Address Private

It is surprisingly easy for a person, nefarious or otherwise, to discover with pretty good accuracy somebody’s physical address from an IP. I’m not necessarily comfortable with that information being so easily accessible. And for any number of reasons, you may feel the same.

Keep Your Online Activities Hidden From Companies

Masking your IP address makes it more difficult for companies to track your browsing history. This is especially true if you combine doing so with keeping your cookies clean.You should also note that some companies, like those involved with travel, for example, will artificially raise prices depending on your physical location. Changing your IP to one in a market with lower prices can save you a good chunk of change.

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Keep Your Online Traffic Hidden From Your ISP

Internet service providers are keen to keep track of your online activities. By changing your IP with a VPN (a proxy is not a good choice in this case), any information your ISP logs will be useless. You will keep everything you do on the Internet to yourself, just as it should be.

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Get Past Censorship

Some governments suppress free speech or otherwise do not allow individuals to access parts of the Internet. Getting a different IP address is a great way to get around those restrictions. As a bonus, if you use a VPN, you also make it near-impossible for the government to track what you do online.

Get Past Work or School Restrictions

You may be in a situation where you are at work or a library and need to access a specific website to get something done. But, the network you’re using may not allow you to get the information you need. Much like with sidestepping government Internet censorship, changing your IP address will get you where you want to go.

Access Content Available in Other Countries

Have you ever been on vacation in another country and not been willing to miss your favorite show? You settle in, open up your browser and lo and behold, content is blocked. I’ve been there, done that. By swapping the foreign IP address with one from your country, you’ll be able to enjoy your shows just like at home. Just find a virtual private network service with a server where you live, and you’re off to the races.

Along those same lines, when at home, you can get an IP address from a different country to access otherwise blocked content from there. You can catch certain shows early, sometimes months before they make it over to your country. Or you can enjoy the content that will simply never be available where you are.

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Keep Your Search-Engine History Private

Google is famous for (and very efficient at) tracking all queries made through its search engine. Bing and other popular alternatives do so as well. You cannot stop them from logging that information. But by changing your IP (and using privacy in your browser), you can prevent them from connecting those searches with you.