Seems like your web browser knows things that even your best friend does not know. Have you come across a situation where while searching for trips to Goa, you found ads for travel packages to Goa popping up on web pages or appearing in your Facebook feed? If so, then has the time come for using incognito mode or private feature on our browser? Confused? No worries. Here, you will come to know everything about Incognito mode.
Ever since private browsing was initially invented, users have been confused about the differences between protecting their online activities from other users, from ad networks and websites, or from the internet service providers. Private browsing mode goes well with the first of these, sometimes partially addresses the second, and does not have any effect on the third. The browser developers have tried to clear this confusion.
How to open an Incognito Mode
Let us say you want to use the Incognito feature in the Google Chrome browser or any other browser like Internet explorer. (Name of this feature varies based on the browser you use). Here are the steps you need to follow:
- On the right side of the Google Chrome address bar, click the three buttons in a vertical row
- Search for the “New Incognito Mode.” Click on that and a new window will open up
- Alternatively, press “Control+ Shift+N. This will take you to an Incognito mode in a single step
- You can be confirmed that you have entered an Incognito mode by seeing the Incognito icon that appears in the middle of the screen and at the top-right position.
In addition to the Incognito icon, you will come across these warning about private browsing on the home screen:
“You have gone incognito. So, now you can browse privately and people who use this device would not see your activities. However, bookmarks and downloads will be saved. Google Chrome will not save these:
- Browsing history
- Site data and cookies
- Info entered in the forms
Your activity might still be visible to:
- Sites you visit
- Your school or employer
- Internet service provider
Here is what it means:
Generally, browsers store the web addresses, known as URLs of the websites you visit. That makes it simpler for you to find them again in the future, if required.
When in private mode, your browser works differently. Your search history will not be stored locally. This is useful for concealing your browsing history from people who are using your device, like when you are planning to buy a surprise gift for someone or if you are searching for adult-oriented sites. But this does not mean that all your activities are totally private.
Your browser also stores cookies, which are small data files that have different uses. For example, cookies can enter passwords automatically, so that you do not have to enter your password every time you visit a website. Or, they can offer to track information for ad companies who want to understand what you browse generally.
The actual design of web tracking features like the cookies were based on the expectation that tracking would be within a single site only and would not connect different browsing sessions until the user wants it to. Both these norms have been violated massively by the online advertising industry, which often generates comprehensive and detailed profiles of what individuals do online most of the time.
How much safe is Private Mode?
You must understand that using incognito mode will not make you unidentified. It is not a kind of superpower of online invisibility. This mode will not stop your internet service provider or your employer from tracking your online activities. It will not hide your location from where you browse sites. If you are signed in to your Google account, then Google can easily track your search pattern, even if you select an incognito mode.
Even though you are far from unidentified, private browsing still has a lot of uses. In addition to avoiding other users from seeing your search history, sometimes, it is great for dodging paywalls that do not allow you to read content or asks you to subscribe. And private browsing may lessen the odds that your web searches will be twisted by the algorithms that track your usage to anticipate the info you are searching for. It will also stop that irritating tracking by sites and ad networks.
Every time you enter Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode, a message pops up on the screen. It reads as “Now you can browse privately and people using this device won’t be able to see your activities.” While Google mentions that Chrome does not save browsing history, information entered into the forms or cookies, it also warns you that your activity may be visible to the sites you visit, the employer or the school controlling the network, or your internet service providers.
While people using your device may not be able to see your browsing history, it is quite possible for your browsing history to be linked to your Gmail account while using Incognito Mode. A study on Google Data Collection showed that for this to happen when in Incognito Mode, you would have to visit a third-party site that uses Google’s advertising and publisher products. Then log into your personal Gmail account.
When you visit a third-party site, it sets a browser cookie that is not actually associated with your Gmail account but is stored in the local storage. Then, by logging into your personal Google account after visiting a third-party site, Google can easily connect the stored cookies with your personal info in the account.
Fortunately, there is a method using which you can avoid these identifiers and remain hidden.
- Remember, never log into your Google account while browsing in Incognito Mode
- If you sign in to your Google account while browsing in Incognito Mode, then clear your browser cookies manually before logging in
This will avoid Google from linking your personal information to your browsing history. In simple language, when it comes to security and internet privacy, even the Incognito Mode of Google can leave your identity susceptible to exposure. We cannot blame Google. After all, it is not the only company that is negotiating with your privacy online.
If you really want to keep your identity hidden from others, then you need to do something more than a private mode. Some of the most accessible options include Virtual Private Network (VPN), which track your communications through intermediaries in ways that reduce what your Internet Service Providers (ISP) know about activities you are doing online.
However, this solution has many misconceptions and myths associated with it. Though the technical details of people who can see are different from the private browsing mode feature, those details still exist, and users must get familiar with them before depending on these privacy technologies for secrecy.
With research, though, you can start the journey to improved online privacy. While doing so, you can better protect your professional and personal life and have peace of mind on a network that is full potential drawbacks.
So, this was everything about Incognito Mode you must know. Next time, when you log into an Incognito Mode, recall these things, and follow these important steps to keep your information a secret.