Incognito mode, also known as the private browser is a great way to browse privately away from prying eyes. It opens a new window, which appears to be a newly installed browser on a different computer. You do not need any plug-ins, bookmarks, and pre-filled forms saved searches or cookies. Every time you close or exit the incognito window, the browser deletes all collected information for that session.
Modern browsers have different names for incognito, such as private browsing, InPrivate browsing, or Private Window. This does not mean, however, that other interested parties cannot collect data on you. Incognito mode has several advantages:
1. It does stop cookies from tracking and identifying you.
Every time you visit a site, some embedded scripts put a small file or a cookie in your gadget or computer. The cookie is read by the site and it identifies you when you next visit the site. This is useful as it lets you stay logged in even long after the computer has rebooted. The cookies also allow you to share news on social media accounts.
The problem with cookies is that they allow you to be tracked across any sites you visit. They track how often you browse and what you have been searching for. This data is used to send you advertisements and identify your political, sexual, and political preferences.
2. It does not help you in protection against browser fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting involves websites you visit gathering information on your browser such as add ons, extensions or even fonts installed. You might be very cautious about your privacy, but these small details can track you.
Browser fingerprinting is not an exact science but works on the laws of probability scores. This does not mean it does not work, and it is hard to defend yourself against it. To minimize how effective browser fingerprinting is, you should:
- Run a browser that has no default extensions or fonts such as Tor browser
- Be cautious while using extensions. Some extensions can be detected by sites
3. It will stop other people from snooping
If you have other people accessing your computer, browsing in incognito mode will help you maintain a degree of privacy. It is better than deleting your browsing history, which will look suspicious. If you are researching on gifts to buy a loved one as a surprise, the browser history will betray you, while incognito mode will afford you enough privacy.
The major question is, what doesn’t incognito mode do?
Incognito mode does not stop tracking via DNS records
When you surf the internet and visit a certain website, your browser has to fetch the IP address of the site. The browser will enquire from the DNS server what a certain websites IP address is, and the server will respond by giving you access to the particular website. A DNS server is likely to store all your searches and then make profits by selling them to any advertiser or hand the information over to the government.
Your Internet Service provider or ISP provides the DNS services, but you can change it to a Google maintained one. There exist free DNS services that have a confidentiality policy not to pass on your data. Some VPN providers have their own DNS services, which include a VPN subscription.
Incognito mode does not mean all your online activity is hidden from prying people. There are two types of privacy- local and online privacy. In incognito mode, only your local privacy is hidden, and local computers cannot see you. Your online privacy remains untouched. Incognito mode does not save cookies or temporary internet browsing history.
Many users mistakenly think that incognito means their online activity is hidden from everyone, including their employers or ISP provider. This means that you should be very careful go to sites that are work-related if you are using your work laptop, otherwise you might get into serious trouble over this.
Incognito mode does not stop system admins from tracking you
If you are a regular public Wi-Fi user, or you regularly connect to a school or work Wi-Fi, the system administrators can easily see every site you log in to. If a site you visit is not HTTPS encrypted, the administrators can see the site content and any communication thereof.
To reduce system admins from tracking you:
- Can use Tor, VPN or both. This hides your browsing history from the network administrators. If the computer you have logged in from is not yours, such as school or at the workplace, the computer might have a tracking software which records all the data, regardless of whether you used Tor or a VPN
Some parents install parental monitoring software that is immune to incognito mode, so when you borrow a laptop from a minor, the parents can see exactly which sites you have been visiting!.
- Use a separate browser of a plugin- You can configure this browser to remember just what you need it to remember, such as search and browsing history, but not site cookies to third-party advertisers.
To configure your browser to privacy user, navigate to the settings on your preferred browser and customize your tools via the search bar. Some ideas to use are:
- Remove auto search
- Turn off password autofill
- Send request for “Do not track”
- Don’t allow cookies and block third-party cookies
- Remove background sync
- Remove notifications
If you have often wondered, where advertisers get information on your preferences from? Incognito browsing keeps you safe from these intrusions, but it does not stop system admins from seeing your activity! There things you can try to keep yourself incognito:
- Hide all your browser history from any other people with access to your computer
- Hide all your browsing trends from third-party advertisers by deleting cookies
- Keep away from browser fingerprinting
Use the incognito browser window when you need to- a tool helps you control your data visibility and prevent others from tracking your internet browsing habits. Use a VPN connection and the Tor Browser and protects you against hackers.
Make sure that whenever possible, you log into sites using your own devices and you should learn why incognito mode does not ensure privacy.
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cybersecurity and privacy tools.