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Incognito Browser: How Private Is Private Browsing?

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Browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Opera offer a private mode feature. In Google Chrome, it’s called incognito, which aims to keep your web browsing history a secret.

Though incognito mode does keep some aspects of your browsing private, you must exactly know what it hides and erases from your device and what it doesn’t.

Once you fully comprehend what incognito mode does to your browser, you’ll know what it can be most helpful with.

The Primary Function of Incognito Mode

When you’re in incognito mode, Google Chrome forgets your activity session once you close the window. Your browsing history is clear, and even the cookies that have been created are also deleted promptly.

If you’re wondering what cookies are, they are a packet of data that your device receives and then sends back without alteration.

For example, you visit Amazon.com and search for items that you like. Cookies keep those items in your Amazon shopping cart. They also help the site remember if you’ve visited the page before.

Without cookies, your shopping cart will reset to zero every time you click a link on the Amazon website.

Some web pages also use cookies to keep track of your login information.

Therefore, if you visit your favorite website in private mode, that site won’t recognize you. You may then be asked to sign up for special offers and newsletters all over again.

Browsing in incognito mode is like starting with a blank slate. Chrome won’t have any trace of where you’ve been or the information you’ve filled out into web forms.

The anonymity that private browsing offers makes it appealing to some people. While in incognito mode, you can run a few quick searches on sensitive topics, such as mental health issues and alternative treatments to these conditions.

Incognito Mode and Its Limitations

How-to-Always-Start-Google-Chrome-in-Incognito-or-Private-Mode
Credit: Windows Dispatch

If you browse privately, cookies and other tracking data are rooted out as soon as you’re done.

Unfortunately, nowadays, data mining and tracking extend beyond a single device or browser. The development of data mining technologies brings a massive threat to a person’s sensitive information.

So even if you browse privately, your actions are no longer anonymous. Your privacy may be compromised when you log into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Gmail, and other social accounts and websites.

In addition, different sites may also use your details while your session is active. They may even link your information to various accounts or profiles.

For example, you log into your Facebook account using incognito mode. Facebook may still be able to see what you’re doing and adjust its advertising based on your activities and searches.

While you can block third-party cookies in your browser, you can stop them only to some extent. Nowadays, most tracking technologies and ad networks have broad scope and precision finding features that are difficult to block entirely.

Incognito mode can hide your activities from Google Chrome on a particular device you’re using. It can even hide your searches from other people using that device. However, when it comes to everything else, there’s no guarantee.

Even if you don’t log in anywhere, the site you visit may use your device type, browser, and IP address to figure out who you might be.

Incognito mode is helpful, but its limits only highlight that it’s hard to be invisible online. For this reason, you need to have a security app to keep any form of online tracking to a minimum.

Explore the Security Apps That You Install

Installing a security app may help protect your device and identity. However, these apps are only valuable when you know how to use them properly. So make sure that you understand their settings and features.

Your security app may have excellent components that aren’t active until you turn them on. So take a glance at your app’s settings and find the mode most suitable to your browsing habits to block potential annoyances.

HTTPS Is Your BFF

Aside from downloading a security app to improve personal internet security, you should use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). It can be your trusted friend when securing your device’s connection from the website you’re visiting.  

Reliable websites are HTTPS-enabled and generally appear as a green padlock in the address bar. 

Each time your browser flashes a padlock or lights up in green, it signals that HTTPS encrypts the connection between your device and the website.  

Even when using a public WiFi network, an HTTPS-enabled site will protect you from spies on the same network. 

Before making online banking transactions, such as credit card payments and online purchases, you should first verify if the website is HTTPS-enabled. That way, you can be sure that your data is encrypted before being transmitted.

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s challenging to maintain one’s privacy. Though anonymity isn’t entirely possible anymore, you can still protect your identity by being extra cautious about your online activity.

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