Proxy Anonymity Levels: Why Do They Matter?

Here's an in-depth guide explaining proxy anonymity.

When it comes to proxies, anonymity may be their most significant feature. As you may already know, there are several different proxy types, and not all of them keep your identity concealed. That’s why it’s essential to get familiar with proxy anonymity levels and consider your needs before using a proxy server. This article will explain how anonymity differs between certain proxy types and their use cases.

What Is a Proxy Server?

Let’s start with the basics: what is a proxy server. A proxy is an intermediary between you and the internet. Each time you make a request online, a proxy server tunnels it through itself before connecting to the requested server. Once the request is retrieved, the proxy server sends it back to you, but not without routing it through itself again. 

How Can Proxies Make You Anonymous Online?

Now that you know what proxies are, it’s time to figure out how they can make you anonymous. The process is relatively simple. Whenever you make a request via the HTTP(s) protocol, your target server receives headers containing identifying information, such as your IP address. Proxies can alter these headers to conceal your identity. But proxy servers approach this differently, depending on their type. 

Proxy Anonymity Levels

There are three main proxy anonymity levels, and three proxy types that correspond to them: transparent, anonymous (also known as semi-anonymous or distorting proxies), and elite (also called high anonymous proxies).

Level 3 – Transparent Proxies

Transparent proxies provide the lowest level of anonymity (level 3). There’s probably no other proxy type we encounter more often. The reason behind this is that unlike other types, transparent proxies don’t need to be configured on the devices of end users. This proxy just sits there between you and the website you’re accessing for authentication purposes. It’s capable of deciding whether to give you access to the desired server, redirect or block you. 

Transparent proxies are commonly used for caching websites, traffic monitoring and filtering, and authentication. When it comes to headers, these proxies don’t hide your original IP address nor that you’re connecting via a proxy. 

Transparent proxies add the following headers:

HTTP_VIA contains the proxy IP address, 

HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR your IP address

REMOTE_ADDR contains proxy IP address

Level 2 – Anonymous Proxies

Anonymous proxies don’t really live up to their name, as they only provide level 2 anonymity. They can be useful if you need to appear as if you’re connecting from a different location or simply if you want to change your IP address. However, anonymous proxies won’t prevent the website from knowing that you’re accessing it via a proxy. That can lead to IP bans unless you’re rapidly rotating IPs. 

Here are the extra headers of a request going through an anonymous proxy:

HTTP_VIA contains proxy IP address, 

HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR contains proxy IP address

REMOTE_ADDR contains proxy IP address

Level 1 – Elite Proxies

Elite proxies are the champions of anonymity and offer the highest level of it (level 1). They replace your own IP and strip away all your identifying information from HTTP headers. What makes them truly elite is that they prevent the target server from knowing that you’re using a proxy by removing HTTP_VIA and HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR headers altogether. 

You can use elite proxies for the most demanding tasks, such as travel fare aggregation, social media management, sneaker coping, web scraping, accessing region-locked content, and many more. There are many commercial providers that offer elite proxies. However, keep in mind that some of them rename elite proxies to anonymous proxies for marketing purposes. 

Elite proxy headers: 

REMOTE_ADDR contains proxy IP address

How to Check Proxy Anonymity

Sometimes, you might want to verify if your proxy IPs provide the anonymity level you need. There are multiple websites that can save you the hassle of doing it yourself. For example, Proxy DB cross-references your request with a big list of headers that can potentially reveal that you’re connecting via a proxy.

Are You Looking for a Free High Anonymous Proxy or Free Anonymous Proxy?

If you’ve just looked up the prices of proxies and thought that you’d instead look for ways to get them for free, there are a few things you should know. Sourcing elite and anonymous proxy IPs and maintaining the proxy infrastructure is an intense and expensive work. To provide the best quality product, companies have no other choice but to keep the prices high. 

You might be thinking: if it’s so expensive to maintain proxies, why are there free proxies? The explanation is simple – those who are providing them are getting something out of it. Sometimes, it could be your bandwidth. Other times it’s your passwords or other sensitive data. For more information, you can read our article on the dangers of free proxies.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Anonymous proxies

What Is a High Anonymity Proxy?

High anonymity proxy, also known as elite proxy, is a type of proxy server that offers the highest level of anonymity. This proxy conceals your IP address and prevents websites from knowing that you’re using a proxy. 

How Do Anonymous Proxies Work?

Anonymous proxies stand between you and websites. They forward your requests using their IP address so that no one can trace you.

Can I Trust Free High Anonymous Proxy Servers?

The short answer is no. Free proxies cannot guarantee that your connections are secure.