For those worrying about privacy, modern browsers allow you to surf in a private or incognito mode browsing. Whereby, you simply open a window in private mode, browse as you please, and close it when you’re done. And as soon as the window shuts, all the browsing history and stored cookies from that session will automatically disappear.
So, if you want to secretly shop for presents on a family computer, incognito mode is a good way to do it without leaving a trace. However, this mode won’t erase everything you do. For example, if you log on to a site like Facebook or Amazon in incognito mode, those pages will recognize you and record your browsing activity.
In other words, your browser won’t remember what you’ve been up to. But any sites you log into using this mode will. This means you might see evidence of your private browsing in ads that appear later.
And if you download files, private mode won’t wipe them either, though it will clear out your download history. Incognito Mode changes the Chrome web browser itself (and other privacy modes work the same way with their respective browsers). However, the browser isn’t always the only thing keeping track of web history.
What is Incognito Mode Browsing?
Much like it sounds, the incognito mode browsing allows you to go undercover when you’re browsing on the internet. Any searches or websites you visit in Incognito Mode won’t show up in your internet search history later.
So, if you’re trying to prevent a website from tracking you with cookies, using incognito mode is probably one of the best preventative measures that you can take. But that’s not all this tool can do. Basically, private browsing or incognito mode is designed to remove any local data on the web browsing session.
That means that any cookies a site tries to upload to your computer are blocked or deleted. Meaning that no browsing is recorded in your local search history. Other various trackers, temporary files, and third-party toolbars are disabled.
Privacy modes like this, affect specific devices and only browser-related data on those devices. That leaves a whole lot of data that incognito mode doesn’t affect at all.
If you’re using a Windows computer, for example, someone else can come along and input the right commands to view DNS files, which Incognito Mode doesn’t touch. So yes, if someone wants to do the work, they can still see the browsing history on that computer.
There are even easier ways to view browsing history with the right apps. In particular, parental control apps can independently watch, record, and display web browsing history, and they won’t be affected by a privacy mode.
Why should I Browse in Private?
Most people get it completely wrong when it comes to ‘Private Browsing’ – aka ‘Incognito’ mode – a new study has shown. Private browsing is actually far less ‘private’ than most people imagine. With your details (including IP address and even sites you’ve visited) still potentially visible.
But, it’s one safe way online. It’s also important to realize, the incognito mode doesn’t affect malware that may already be on your computer. If there’s spyware like a keylogger installed on your device, it can probably still track all your key inputs.
While stealing personal login information, regardless of your web browser being in incognito mode. Private browsing is great for ensuring you don’t accidentally leave data on a shared computer. For instance, if you’re using a computer in a library. And if you’re logging in to check email, for instance, incognito mode is a useful safeguard.
Of course, you’ll need to remember to close the window. It erases tracking cookies, searches, and sites visited, so it can also be a sneaky way to bypass paywalls on some news sites.
Who can see what I do in Private Mode?
Setting your browser to incognito won’t hide what you’re doing from your boss – the sites you visit are still visible on your work network. So, your employer will know (and have a record of) what sites you visit. If you’re on an internet connection at school or university, they’ll also be able to see what you’re doing.
Basically, this applies unless you’re paying for the connection yourself. It also won’t hide what you’re doing from your ISP, which will still see a record of every site you visit. Websites you visit will still ‘see’ your IP address, so they’ll have a record of your visit, even if your PC doesn’t store it.
The cookies used to identify you will have gone, and your browsing history will have vanished, but your IP address can still be traced as having visited a particular website. Google says, ‘Your activity isn’t hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or your internet service provider.’
If you log into a Google account while you’re in incognito mode, you’ll also save the searches and sites you visit in your Google history (separate from your PC one). This can be accessed by anyone on a computer logged into your email.
Do the search engines keep Incognito Mode records?
It’s possible yes, but that’s a matter of debate. Research has shown that, if it wanted to, Google may be able to link Incognito browsing activity to your accounts like Gmail and YouTube. Essentially, backtracking to see just where you’ve been and identify who a particular Incognito user is.
However, Google has claimed that this is erroneous research from a lobbyist study. Made specifically to discredit Google and that it would never try this type of tracking. You can read more about the whole issue here. With this in mind, can incognito mode help protect me from malware, spam ware, and other dangers?
Not really. In some cases, it might make it less likely that your personal information will be stolen. But Incognito Mode isn’t a security setting and isn’t designed to prevent malware problems. It doesn’t create firewalls or watch for viruses. You can still easily download malware when using Incognito Mode, especially if you aren’t being cautious.
Any files you download won’t be remembered by Chrome. But will still be in your device’s download folder. And will be visible to anyone who uses your device, Google warns.
Do websites track records in Incognito Mode?
In some ways, yes. But this is changing. While Incognito Mode gets rid of cookies and prevents the collection of related information, it doesn’t exactly make you invisible to the sites that you visit. Since your IP address isn’t hidden, sites can still record your presence and where you came from, which they use for analytics.
Login sites like Amazon, Instagram, or a Google Account site (YouTube, etc.) can obviously tell you’re there when you are automatically logged in. Sites can even run tests to see if you are using Incognito Mode when you visit their site.
That last part, in particular, has earned Google’s attention. In Chrome 76, Google is patching the quirk that allowed sites to track Incognito Mode use, which adds a little bit of extra privacy.
This is, in particular, a blow for big online news sites. Especially, that offers several free blog articles a month before putting up a paywall. Furthermore, Google’s response to news site complaints has been, in a nutshell: “Find another way.”
Can other people see my Incognito Mode activities?
Absolutely, as can schools, etc. IT specialists or anyone else in charge of the internet at work has the ability to see what people are doing in Incognito Mode. This is important for security or legal purposes, and from the employer’s perspective, it’s common sense.
This doesn’t mean that employers are always watching how you browse the internet. Simply, because that varies greatly depending on company practices. And whether the employer is currently cracking down on any particular internet behavior.
Employers aren’t the only ones who can see what you’re browsing in incognito, either. Your internet service provider could, in theory, also see what you are doing. ISPs tend to have better things to do than watch what a random user is browsing.
But, your data isn’t necessarily private there. At times, ISPs may compile browsing statistics across many users that the ISP can use or sell. Will Google change Incognito Mode in the future? The company seems open to the idea, but it’s likely to stay a local-only mode.
If you want better protection against all types of data collection, we suggest you look into a customizable VPN for added protection.
What are the risks of browsing in Incognito Mode?
A University of Chicago study asked 460 volunteers what they thought private browsing mode did in various scenarios. And most of those had no idea how public their information remains.
For instance, the study found that 56.3% believed that logging into a Google account in incognito mode would mean searches weren’t saved. Another 46.5% thought bookmarks saved in private mode wouldn’t show up.
40.2% thought it would stop websites tracking their location. While an alarming 25.2% said they believed that setting the browser to private would hide their public IP address. ‘We found that browsers’ disclosures fail to correct the majority of the misconceptions we tested,’ the researchers write.
Now that you have an idea of incognito mode browsing is, do you think it’s worth a shot? Please let us know what you think about the incognito browsing compared to the other standard web browser experience in the comments section.