That private browser mode or incognito mode you use to browse the net privately doesn’t make you as private as you think. Before completely trusting your browser, find out what it can and can’t do.
Incognito/private mode helps you browse the web without storing browsing data on your browser so that it can’t be retrieved later. This means that your searches, visited pages, login details and cookies will not be saved on the device after you close your private windows. However, any files you download or bookmarks you create will be kept. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer all offer similar private modes.
Private browser modes protect you from people tracking your online activities on the computer you’re using. It’s a great tool when you share your computer with others or when using a public computer. It can also be used if a trusted friend wants to log into their accounts when on your device.
They can also be used for booking flight tickets or hotel rooms because they might get you lower prices. Because they don’t save cookies, the airline or hotel website might not know that you checked your chosen dates before and hike their prices accordingly.
To start browsing in incognito mode, open your browser, select “File” and then choose “New Private Window” or “New Incognito Window” (the name may vary from browser to browser). Here are the shortcuts for different browsers:
Once you are done, simply close the window, and that’s it – your local browsing history is gone. You can also make your browser start in private browsing mode by default so that your online activities are never logged locally. To do this, search your browser’s settings tab.
Your private browsing mode only blocks your own browser from recording your traffic and it doesn’t hide your IP. Someone can still track you (use our tool to see what your IP address reveals about you). It doesn’t encrypt or route your traffic via remote server the way a VPN does. It only erases your browsing history, deletes cookies when you close the browser, and removes the data you enter in online forms. Your ISP, your employer, websites, search engines, governments and other third-party snoopers can still collect your data and track your IP address.
Google and Mozilla are completely upfront about this 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 will no longer conceal you in those cases. 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.
While your incognito history is not readily available, your device still stores it in its DNS cache. Anyone with slightly more advanced tech knowledge can get hold of it. However, you can easily remove it by following the instructions below.
If you use Windows:
1. Type in “command prompt” in the Windows search box and choose Run as administrator option;
2. In the command prompt window type “ipconfig/flushdns” and press Enter.
If you use MacOS:
1. Open Finder, then choose Applications -> Utilities;
2. Open Terminal;
3. Type in “sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder” and hit Enter;
4. Type in your password, press Enter and close the window.
This will flush all the DNS entries and no one will see your visited websites.
In addition to using incognito/private mode, you need a browser or browser extension that will protect your privacy from third parties as well.
Here are a few good options:
To find more great private browser options, check out our post!
If you want to stick with your current browser, privacy extensions are the way to go. There’s a huge selection of tools you can use to make sure you truly browse securely and privately. Click here to find out more.
For greater private browsing security, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It does what incognito mode cannot. It hides your IP address and replaces it with the address of a remote VPN server, making it impossible to track you in this way. It also encrypts your traffic, protecting your browsing habits from your ISP and other third parties.
To use the best of both worlds you just have to:
A VPN will encrypt your whole connection while incognito mode will minimise your digital footprint on the browser level.
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