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Incognito Mode: Not as Private as You Think

Incognito mode

When it comes to browsing the web privately, everyone has their favorite methods. For a lot of people, that means using the private, or incognito, mode of their browser. However, although it has legitimate uses, the incognito mode does not actually make people’s browsing habits as private as they think.

What Private Browsing Mode Does

Opening a private or incognito window in your browser of choice – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer – ensures that your computer does not remember your online activity. The searches, visited pages and cookies won’t be saved on the computer after you close all of your private windows. However, any files you download or bookmarks you create will be kept.

Because of this, the incognito mode is generally safer when having online conversations you don’t want to be logged on your computer or using a public computer to access your accounts. Booking flight tickets or hotel rooms in the private mode may turn out cheaper – without cookies, the airline or hotel website will not be able to see if you’ve checked these particular dates before and hike the price accordingly.

Also, if you allow a friend to check their email or log into Facebook on your computer, open a new private window for them. They will be able to sign into their accounts without signing you out.

What Private Browsing Mode Doesn’t Do

Even if the private browsing mode doesn’t keep a record of the sites you visit, all of that information can still be tracked with your IP address. Therefore, your browsing data can still be collected by your ISP, your employer and any third party that can track your IP address.

Google and Mozilla are completely upfront about it in their browsers. “Going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your Internet service provider or the websites that you visit,” Chrome users are warned each time they open a new incognito window. However, Apple and Microsoft do not bother to inform their users about these limitations.

Also, if you do log into Facebook, Amazon, or anywhere else while browsing in incognito mode, those sites are obviously going to know about it – the private mode won’t conceal you in this case. If you sign into one of Google’s multiple apps, Chrome will also start recording your cookies and history again, making the whole incognito thing useless.

How You Can Browse Truly Privately

There are non-major search engines out there that respect your privacy, such as DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t store any personally identifiable information, doesn’t use cookies that can identify you, and throws away any IP addresses from its server logs. While websites still know you visited them through your IP address, DuckDuckGo won’t share your search phrases with them.

Tor, previously known as The Onion Router, is a network that allows users to surf the web anonymously. It routes your traffic through a series of computers before finally connecting you with your intended destination. This way, your traffic is bounced around at random and it is difficult to determine where the original traffic came from.

Another essential tool for enhancing privacy is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It hides your real IP address and replaces it with the IP address of a remote VPN server. This way, any online monitoring based on tracking IP addresses fails, protecting your browsing habits from your ISP and other third parties. NordVPN also secures your internet traffic with military-grade encryption and keeps no logs of your online activities.

How do you use the private browsing mode? Do you have any special tricks such as the cheaper flights? Please share in the comments below!

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