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Posted on November 21, 2014 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Last month, we took a look at Ello, the social media site that burst onto the scene promoting ad-free socializing. The promise of Ello, of course, is that you’ll be more secure because your data will never be sold to advertisers, and you don’t even need to use your real name to sign up.  That’s definitely a step in the right direction for those looking to increase their online privacy protection.

That seems all well and good, but let’s face it: Facebook isn’t going anywhere. If you’ve had an account since the site first launched more than 10 years ago, that’s a decade of photos and memories you’d have to say goodbye to before moving on to another social network. So, the big question here is, how can you keep your online social identity without compromising your real life identity?

In the past, there really wasn’t a way to hide yourself while visiting Facebook. This is because of one of their basic principles that users need to use their real names and be honest about their network practices. As such, visitor IP addresses and other information has been easily tracked by Facebook, government agencies, and employers.

But, Facebook just released something called “Facebook Dark,” which hides users IP addresses and locations. Users will still need to log in with a real name, but where they’re logging in from will remain private. How does it work? Facebook Dark can only be accessed through Tor; software that bounces signals among different Tor-enabled computers around the world, preventing a user’s identity from being revealed. You can find out more about Tor, and similar services, in our “deep web” post.

While Facebook Dark may be great for some sneaky at-work Facebookers, its real benefit is for prospective, and current, Facebook users in countries where Facebook is banned. Social networking has been an invaluable resource for people in countries like Syria and China, where grassroots motivation relies on online communications. Facebook is blocked or closely monitored to put to a stop to the organization of protests, but with Facebook dark, people won’t need to hide their browsing habits with complicated encryption services.

You might be wondering if this will make your data more vulnerable. After all, if users are able to hide their location and other information, will it make it easier for them to stage elaborate hacks?

It’s not likely. No matter where users log in from, they are still required to use their real name and other identifying factors. Furthermore, this technology may actually offer greater online privacy protection, because there’s less personal information available for advertisers (and thieves) to mine.

Learn more about keeping your social media accounts protected from hacking and scams with our social media safety tips.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Acid Pix.