Chrome’s Incognito Mode Isn’t Private, So What’s the Point?

Incognito Mode in Google Chrome, despite its name, isn’t really “incognito” at all. The Independent published this article on Tuesday explaining that “incognito” misleads users into thinking their data is protected.

What Does Incognito Mode Do?

Using Incognito Mode, Chrome won’t save the following information:

  • Your browsing history
  • Cookies and site data
  • Information entered in forms

When users open an incognito window, Google discloses: Your activity might still be visible to:

  • Websites you visit
  • Your employer or school
  • Your internet service provider

Darin Fisher, Chrome developer, recommends using incognito mode for “avoiding cookies, hiding activities from people who may have access to your computer, such as a loved one you’re buying a present for, and protecting yourself against potentially dodgy websites.” Incognito mode is essentially the same as clearing your browser history in Chrome.

Is Private Browsing Really Private?

The short answer is: No. Incognito Mode, may give you some additional privacy but it’s main purpose is to keep your browsing history private from other users on your device. This is an issue, because people may assume that since their cookies aren’t transferred from standard browsing mode into private browsing, that none of their data gets shared with these websites. From the website or your ISP’s perspective, your browsing can still be linked to your identity, based on your IP address or your login information.

You would be better off using a VPN and avoiding logging in to the sites you visit than relying on Incognito Mode for privacy. This method would hide your IP address and your location, much more effectively than Incognito Mode alone.

You Aren’t Invisible in Incognito Mode

If you’re using Incognito Mode with the expectation that your browsing is invisible, you should stop doing so. That’s one of the issues with Incognito Mode not keeping your identity and browsing activity hidden from the sites you visit, or anyone monitoring your network. You should always be cautious on the internet, but this is especially true with something like Incognito Mode that gives people the impression that they are browsing privately.

Why Doesn’t Private Browsing Work?

When you use a browser normally, the web browser stores data about your browsing history. If you go to a website, the browser logs that information, stores cookies, and stores form data for autocomplete. In this transaction, the website is also communicating with your computer and your browser. It collects information, like your IP address and type of device you’re using. Private browsing tells your browser not to record information, but it can’t control what information is gathered and stored on other websites’ servers. Your history, while invisible on your computer, is probably still available somewhere else.

While “private” browsing modes appear to protect your data, private browsers are a better option. Tor is a good option and the most popular private web browser. The Tor Browser is a portable application that you can carry on a USB stick. This means you can simply protect your browsing behavior on any computer you use. One issue with private browsers is speed. Because you’re taking an encrypted path to websites you visit, site loading will be slower.

So, What Should You Do?

You should take extra precautions if you actually need your search data to be private. Use these 8 Ways to Protect Your Digital Privacy to make sure your information stays safe. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself and encrypt your data. Your first step could be to use our private search engineAfter looking into Incognito Mode’s and its functionality, we recommend taking other measures to protect your privacy than just Private Browsing mode or Incognito Mode. 

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