How to watch YouTube anonymously

When it comes to de-Googling, quitting YouTube is often one of the biggest hurdles. Streaming user-generated content on YouTube has become an everyday pastime for most people, and the idea of quitting the platform is hard to accept – even if it is highly beneficial to your privacy.

What you stream on YouTube provides Google with a huge amount of personal information. It allows the company to learn about your hobbies, the products you are interested in buying, the places you wish to visit, the celebrities and influencers you follow, the books you intend to read, and the news that interests you. 

We can't think of another service that captures such a precise and detailed snapshot of its users. With this in mind, it is vital to prevent this tracking if you want to improve your online privacy. So, what's the answer?

The good news is that there are methods for streaming YouTube privately and anonymously. As a result, you can watch the content you are interested in without letting Google know everything about you.

How can I watch YouTube without Google?

To use YouTube privately, you must give up your personal account on the platform. Continuing to use your existing account whilst logged in will allow Google to know exactly what you are watching.

This is true even if you use the incognito feature, because it only stops your history accumulating in your account – not from being tracked and analyzed by Google.

The good news is that the services mentioned in this guide will allow you to import your subscriptions and enjoy them without Google knowing. As a result, you can still watch content from all of your favorite creators.

What's more, these apps and services for watching YouTube privately actually have some features that you don't get on YouTube. You'll probably prefer your YouTube experience after you quit the official website and apps, in fact!

How to watch YouTube anonymously?

There are three popular services available on the market that allow people to stream video content on YouTube without tracking. Those apps are:

Each of those apps offers a similar experience, and they are all great for gaining privacy while streaming on YouTube. However, to help you decide between them, we will take a closer look at each service below.

NewPipe

NewPipe is an open-source Android app for using YouTube without being tracked by Google. It is an excellent way to stream videos from YouTube without ads and without accepting the questionable app permissions from Google's official app.

Is NewPipe safe?

NewPipe's code is published on GitHub, which means that anybody can verify and audit the code to ensure it is safe. The open-source nature of the app is a big thumbs up in terms of security and transparency.

That said, it is still possible that the NewPipe app could contain a vulnerability that has yet to be discovered. However, for the time being, nothing troubling has been found, and the app is considered completely safe.

NewPipe has many fans on Reddit, and it has received tons of praise from prominent tech bloggers because of its ability to allow users to stream YouTube privately.

However, it is worth noting that NewPipe still communicates with Google's servers directly to access videos, so Google will still be able to track your IP address. For this reason, you will need to use a VPN if you want to gain complete privacy while using NewPipe.

Overall, NewPipe is an excellent player that lets you search YouTube with added privacy and does not harvest any data from you. You can download it either from the official NewPipe website or from F-Droid.

For those who want optimal security, it is possible to add Team NewPipe's F-Droid repository to the app to ensure you get updates as quickly as possible!

Is NewPipe available on Google Play?

No. NewPipe is currently only available via the official NewPipe website, which means that you will need to change your phone's settings to enable installing from unknown sources.

We recommend that if you decide to install NewPipe, you change your Android settings back after. This will ensure that you do not install any other untrusted apps in the future.

We understand that it has probably been drilled into you never to install apps from outside of the official app store, and it is true that this is the best course of action most of the time. However, NewPipe is an open-source app that is trusted, and as long as you only source it from the official website, you will be fine.

That said, it is vital that you only install NewPipe from the official website. If you download the APK from a random website – or a cloned version of the NewPipe website – you could wind up with a very nasty malware infection. 

To ensure that you are safe, be sure to check the URL closely to check that you are on the real NewPipe website before you download the app.

According to Reddit users, there are fake NewPipe websites around, and there are fake versions of the app circulating in the wild – so you must download the app only from NewPipe or F-Droid.

Invidious

Invidious is an open-source alternative front end for YouTube. It is a great option for anybody who wants to watch YouTube videos anonymously.

It is an entirely web-based solution that permits you to stream videos on YouTube without Google tracking you. And it gives you a completely ad-free YouTube experience. 

The website functions by proxying your connection to YouTube's servers. As a result, YouTube and Google are unable to track you when you watch their videos.

You can even save subscriptions without needing to create a Google account! It also includes support for Reddit comments in place of YouTube comments, in case you still want that social fix.

Is Invidious safe?

Yes. The official Invidious website is considered completely safe, and it has a great reputation with users.

The website has no trackers, and it uses a randomly generated token to provide an RSS feed of your YouTube subscriptions. This ensures that you can follow your subscriptions without generating a paper trail, or allowing Google to track your viewing habits.

To be extra sure that Google isn't getting any of your data, most people agree it's worth signing up for an Invidious account rather than signing in to the service with your Google account.

In addition, for obvious reasons, we recommend that anybody who wants to prevent Google tracking them also uses Invidious on Firefox rather than Chrome. This will reduce the chance of Google tracking you via your browser.

FreeTube

FreeTube is a desktop app that has been around since 2017. It provides an alternative front end for YouTube designed to give you privacy by preventing Google tracking.

The FreeTube client is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux desktop computers, and it has a wealth of features to let you enjoy YouTube as you normally would – but without any information about being harvested.

Is FreeTube safe?

Originally, FreeTube leveraged the Invidious API to scrape YouTube and provide you with access to your subscriptions and saved videos. Since 2020, however, an updated version has been released, which actually has its own API.

The newer version of FreeTube has improved the app and given FreeTube devs greater control over how the app works. This ensures that it can continue to provide strong privacy for its users now and in the future.

The project is designed from the ground up with privacy in mind, and it is a community-supported project that is considered a completely safe and private way to watch YouTube.

Does Incognito mode make YouTube private?

Using Incognito mode only prevents your viewing history from accumulating in your account. This can allow you to watch videos without anybody being able to tell that you watched those videos if they look at your account. 

Unfortunately, this outward appearance of privacy does nothing to prevent Google from tracking your viewing habits. The tech giant can still see which videos you watch in Incognito mode, and it can still use that information to make decisions about you.

Should I use a VPN to watch YouTube privately?

Yes! Even if you use a third-party app like NewPipe to stream YouTube, Google will still be able to track your IP address. This can allow Google to figure out who is streaming videos, even if you aren't logged into a Google account.

A VPN prevents any tracking by concealing your real IP address from Google when you use NewPipe or any other service to stream YouTube, which will add another layer of privacy when streaming on YouTube via a third-party service. 

Check out the best VPNs for YouTube to find out more.

Proxies

It is worth noting that Invidious and FreeTube have a proxy option, which should prevent your IP address from being tracked by Google's servers. However, we still recommend concealing your IP address yourself with a VPN, as this offers a higher level of protection.

 

Conclusion

YouTube is a great way to access a wealth of information, but if you want to prevent Google from harvesting useful information about you it is vital to access the service using a third-party app. 

All the options provided in this blog offer effective services for streaming YouTube privately, and you can use any one of them depending on which device you own.

If you have any opinions about these services, we are eager to find out what you think! So, if you want to let the ProPrivacy community know which is your favorite, be sure to leave a comment below.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

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