Incognito – Using your Web Browser’s Private Mode

Protect your privacy by temporarily disabling your web browser's history of site visits, searches & downloads. 

Will using incognito keep me safe?

As you probably know, most web browsers keep extensive records of your activities. You probably also know how to clear your web browsing data, whether manually or with apps. You could clear your browsing data after visiting sensitive websites or even clear it on a regular basis.

However, you can prevent much of the records from being recorded in the first place by using your web browser’s privacy mode when visiting sites or conducting searches that you would rather not leave records of on your device. Almost all web browsers let you enter a privacy mode, disabling all of the browser’s history, cookie, autocomplete and other record-keeping features.

Contrary to popular belief, browsing in privacy mode is not used only for erotic websites. While browsing in privacy mode often has this connotation (it’s sometimes called porn mode), it can have many uses. For example, you might want to use your web browser’s privacy mode when researching a gift online for your spouse or, for that matter, if you are researching divorce options. Or maybe you are organizing a surprise vacation for the family and want to keep this a secret from other family members that use the same device.

Whatever your reasons, browsing in private mode is handy when you want to disable your web browser’s record keeping features.

In Chrome, you can start a private browsing session (Chrome calls this going incognito) by accessing the main menu button (the three horizontal lines, ≡) and selecting New incognito window. You can also do this with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+N. To open a specific link in private browsing mode, right-click on the link and select Open link in incognito window.

Though generally the same, each browser’s privacy mode has its own peculiarities. Firefox calls it private browsing and Internet Explorer calls it InPrivate Browsing.

Browsing in incognito privacy mode helps keep your habits under wraps from anyone that may have physical access to your device. Any activities you performed with private browsing enabled will not be reflected in your web browser's history records whether searches, website visits or downloads.

Incognito Private Browsing will NOT Protect you from Online Tracking

Browsing in private mode also somewhat protects you from online tracking. In addition to disabling record keeping functions, incognito/privacy mode also prevents your browser from interacting with some tracking elements such as cookies, beacons and social media icons.

However, although browsing in private mode is helpful and easy, your online behavior may still be detected and tracked in all kinds of other ways including with flash cookies and device fingerprinting. Therefore, for anti-tracking purposes, incognito private mode provides only a bare minimum of protection, but for some people this may be enough.

So, while incognito private browsing offers decent protection for preventing history records being retained by your browser, don't be lulled into a false sense of complacency that you are not being tracked. Even when you browse in incognito mode that, mostly likely you are still being tracked.


August 17, 2020

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