With such a heavy reliance on the Internet for all sorts of interactions and transactions and the many ways people are connected via their mobile or desktop devices, is it possible to remain invisible online?While this might be a challenge for many, there are ways for privacy-obsessed users to leave as little a trace as possible when venturing into cyberspace. (See a list of products that will protect your privacy.)Users should first re-evaluate what\u2019s important to them when it comes to privacy, says Frank Ahearn, a privacy expert and author of the book \u201cHow to Disappear.\u201d[ 8 tips to enhance your online privacy ]\u201cIs it OK that apps have access to their GPS [global positioning system] location, their camera, photos and phone book?\u201d Ahearn says. \u201cPrivacy is an odd sort of thing. It is not tangible, and sometimes out-of-sight leads to out-of-mind.\u201dStill, it\u2019s important to consider when people use a medium owned or operated by a third party, such as the Internet, an elevator with a camera or a mobile app that requires connectivity. \u201cWe need to accept that there presently is no privacy in those circumstances,\u201d Ahearn says. \u201cTherefore, it is less about maintaining and more about personal awareness.\u201dInternet users can better protect their privacy online \u201cby thinking of their private information as gold; do not give it away,\u201d Ahearn says. \u201cPlace a personal value on private information and recognize that sites want to profit [from] the information they extract. The best way to combat that is to supply untrue information. Deception has a positive purpose in the digital world,\u201d and in fact is the best ally a user has to truly protect his online information.Privacy is an odd sort of thing. It is not tangible, and sometimes out-of-sight leads to out-of-mind.Frank Ahearn, a privacy expert and authorAhearn is not a believer in privacy software and similar tools. \u201cWe do not know if anonymizers or privacy email sites work or are telling the truth about their services,\u201d he says. \u201cThe average person cannot tell a real Babe Ruth signature from a fake, nor can the average person test if software or Web sites are truthful in their claim.\u201dThe only way not to be tracked online is to not make a connection, Ahearn says. An example he cites is the use of a prepaid mobile phone.\u201cThe idea is when a user makes a call their identity is not known since no identifiers are attached to the phone,\u201d Ahearn says. \u201cThis is half-right. When the user purchased the phone from the store, the transaction was captured on camera and so they are connected to the phone. An identity can be discovered from this action.\u201d If the user sent someone else to make the purchase, that person would be connected to the phone.\u201dThe problem with privacy tools is users do not know if the tools offered will actually work to protect their privacy, Ahearn says. \u201cI tell all of my clients that if they cannot prove the tool, it does not work and a different strategy must considered,\u201d he says. \u201cI believe Snapchat guaranteed photos would immediately disappear. But they lied and look what happened.\u201dStill, vendors are offering a number of products designed to help users maintain their privacy online, and these provide a variety of features designed to help keep information private (see sidebar article).Tools designed to enhance privacyVendors offer a variety of products aimed at providing greater privacy for users. Here\u2019s a sampling:Hotspot Shield. This VPN offering from AnchorFree Inc. allows users to send encrypted data over previously unencrypted networks. It provides private and secure Web browsing, and is available for Mac, Windows, iPhone\/iPad and Android devices. Hotspot Shield creates an encrypted tunnel between computers and the vendor\u2019s servers to let users conduct online activities anonymously.A product from Abine that lets users protect their online passwords, payments and personal information online, on any device. Blur integrates with all browsers, and gives users the option to go online without ever being tracked or providing personal information such as email, phone numbers, or credit cards numbers to online retailers.Places by Ansamb. Founded by a team of PhDs in computer science and cognitive psychology, Places by Ansamb is a private file-sharing and messaging platform that began beta test in January 2015. It\u2019s available on Linux, Apple OS X and Windows, and provides automatically encrypted video calling using the highest level of encryption.OX Guard. An email security tool from Open-Xchange that\u2019s designed to bring simple encryption of data and communication without the need for prior knowledge of cryptography procedures or techniques. It protects against unauthorized access to email and files during storage and delivery to other email service providers.Tor. Originally designed, implemented and deployed as a project for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for the primary purpose of protecting government communications, today Tor is used for a variety of purposes by individuals, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers and others. It\u2019s a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.In addition to these products, for those users who want to get online and not employ deception tactics, there are a number of options to enhance privacy.One is to use a virtual private network (VPN) when online. \u201cThis way your data traffic is encrypted, and thus difficult to detect by spies or any hackers\u2014whether you use a phone, computer or tablet,\u201d says Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert. \u201cData transmission may still occur due to ads, but the VPN will put a stifling effect on it.\u201d\u201cThere are inexpensive anonymizing VPN services that are easy to use,\u201d says Randy Abrams, research director at NSS Labs, an information security research and advisory company. \u201cThese services hide your IP address, which does significantly increase privacy, even when using public Internet services.\u201dAnother tactic is to install Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), a communications protocol for secure communication over a network. Privacy seekers should install HTTPS browser plugins wherever they can, Siciliano says. \u201cIt\u2019s free, though currently not available for smartphones,\u201d he says. \u201cHTTPS means security on the visited Web site.\u201dUsers can also be less visible by limiting the information they share online.\u201cFollow the minimum necessary rule; only fill in the fields that are mandatory when filling out online forms,\u201d says Vinny Sakore, cloud security program manager at ICSA Labs, a vendor-neutral firm that tests and certifies security products. \u201cWhen prompted, do not \u2018opt in\u2019 unless you absolutely need to. Stay away from contests and \u2018free giveaways\u2019 where your personal information is requested.\u201dUsers can also quit or limit their activity on social networks. \u201cOne of the most common and effective steps to reduce one\u2019s footprint is to give up all social networks,\u201d Abrams says. \u201cGiving up social networks can reduce both targeted advertising and stalking.\u201d\tFor those users who like their privacy but also enjoy using social media, it\u2019s a good idea to post only when you\u2019re connected via your password-protected, secure workplace or home Wi-Fi, Siciliano says. \u201cAnd in some cases you may need to post via computer, not your smartphone,\u201d he says.On sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Google+, set the privacy settings to not allow anyone outside your approved list to view your information,\u201d Sakore says. \u201cAlso, be careful about approving posts and images where you are \u2018tagged,\u2019\u201d he says.For added privacy on mobile devices, users should put their device into airplane mode\u2014which suspends data transmission\u2014while using apps such as games. \u201cYou don\u2019t need to be online to play all games,\u201d Siciliano says. \u201cBeing offline means your personal data can\u2019t be transmitted.\u201d[ Five new threats to your mobile device security ]Also, turn off cellular data connections. \u201cUnless you absolutely must know every single e-mail that\u2019s coming in when you\u2019re out and about, switch off the cellular data,\u201d Siciliano says. \u201cCheck your e-mail only when you\u2019re on a secure network.\u201dOther tips for mobile users are to turn off the GPS and Wi-Fi on your mobile device, and \u201cdumb down\u201d your phone.\u201cGPS, Wi-Fi and geolocation can pinpoint your location fast,\u201d Siciliano says. \u201cKeep them off unless you need them. To turn off geolocation, start with your apps that take photos, then do the rest. Then you won\u2019t have to worry about government agents finding you.\u201dYou can also ditch your smartphone and use a feature phone. \u201cThough even a simple cellphone can be used as a tracking device, it makes it hard for anyone to get your location and data, since you can\u2019t get on social media or play online games with a dumb phone,\u201d Siciliano says.