How Private is Incognito Mode of your Browser?
Do you want to surf internet privately? If you want that no one could see what you did online and you are doing it with the Incognito mode of your browser, then you are fooling yourself. Incognito Mode, Private Window, or InPrivate Window doesn’t give you full privacy protection. The government, ISP, and secret spies still can see your online activity. Let’s see how private the Incognito mode is.
What is Incognito Mode and How it Works?
Incognito mode is a way to stop saving information about your online activity on your computer. Meaning, other users of the same device cannot know what you did online. It won’t keep your browsing history, form fill up data, and deletes cookies.
Cookies are small files that websites save on your computer. For example, if you visit a site and search about something then the next time you will visit the website it will access your choices from the cookies.
While browsing, Incognito Mode remembers everything but deletes everything when you close the window. Remember your bookmarks, and downloaded files will still be visible on your computer. The downloaded file will not in the history of the browser, but the actual file will be in the download folder.
Various popular browsers support Incognito mode. Chrome uses the same name, Firefox has Private Window, and Edge has InPrivate Window. They all support the same features.
What doesn't Incognito Mode Do?
Incognito mode only hides your activity from other users on the same device. It doesn’t protect your business from Internet Service Provider (ISP), from your employer, and the websites you visit.
How to Activate Incognito Mode?
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Internet Explorer
To activate Incognito mode on Google Chrome Click on Menu button, and click New incognito window. Alternatively, to start it quicker, press Ctrl+Shift+N.
A darker window will open with Incognito mode. It contains the message, ‘You’ve gone incognito.’ Also, it notifies you of the information that gets deleted and saved data. It also tells you exactly who can still see such information. To stop the incognito sessions close the window.
Mozilla Firefox also supports Incognito mode. Firefox calls it Private Window. It is as easy as Chrome’s Incognito feature. Click on Menu and then click on New Private Window. You can also use the keyboard shortcut to open it quickly which is Ctrl+Shift+P.
A window with the dark purple background will open. It tells you Private Browsing with Tracking Protection is enabled on this window. Also, it shows what information will be private and what not. It also tells you to Private browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the internet. Close the window to stop this feature.
Microsoft Edge named this feature InPrivate Window. To activate it click on Menu and then click on New InPrivate window.
A new window will open labelling tabs InPrivate. It also displays a message telling ‘Browsing InPrivate,’ and it will delete browsing data after you close all the InPrivate Tabs.
Microsoft is trying to remove Internet Explorer from their operating system slowly, but still, it is available on Windows 10. It also supports InPrivate mode. To access it, click on Gear Icon to open the menu and then hover your mouse on Safety and click on InPrivate Browsing. A keyboard shortcut can access the same which is Ctrl+Shift+P
Now a new window will open labelling the tab InPrivate. It also tells you a message that what InPrivate does with your browsing activity. Closing the window will take to regular browsing session.
The Privacy Issues with Incognito Mode
When it comes to privacy Incognito doesn’t do anything. It just protects your privacy on your device level. If you want that your spouse doesn’t know what you browse last hour on the internet, then it is the best option for you. However, if you're going complete anonymous on the internet that no one even Government can know what you did, then Incognito is not going to help you.
Your browser may delete all the browsing history and data, but still, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) creates a log of all your traffic. They can easily tell how much time you spend watching porn or downloading a movie on torrent.
The Government can also see what you did on Incognito Mode exactly. Either they will monitor your activity, or they will send a subpoena to ISP about revealing your log.
Not just the Government and ISP but the cybercriminals and hackers can also snoop into your privacy. If you are accessing the internet on public wi-fi, then hackers can easily track all your activity, and confidential information like credit card numbers, bank login details, email login details, your social media accounts. Incognito mode will not be able to stop them.
If Not Incognito then, What?
If you are seriously looking for a completely anonymous way to browse the internet, then indeed it is not Incognito. Some ways can be used to browse privately on the internet. Below I am listing these methods.
1. The Tor Browser (Best way to browse privately)
If you want to browse the web privately, then the Tor browser is your best friend. It makes you anonymous on the internet by hiding your true identity. It routes your traffic from relays so that the websites you visit don’t know who you are. It protects your real IP address and location by routing the traffic. There are thousands of relays worldwide running by volunteers. Tor browser uses at least three relays to route your traffic.
It makes you look same as other users using the Tor browser. Websites and online services couldn’t identify you. However, they will know that the user is using the Tor browser. Tor also helps bloggers, journalists and another person who wants to go anonymous over the internet.
The redirecting the traffic through different relays makes it slow, so it can’t be used to access online services that require a fast connection like steaming websites. It makes you anonymous on the internet, but when you log in with your username on sites, they will be able to identify you.
2. DuckDuckGo (Search engine that respects your privacy)
The popular search engines rely on your search queries. They actively monitor your search activity and use it to serve targeted ads in the search results. If you don’t want the monitoring, then the best option is to use DuckDuckGo. This search engine doesn’t track your search activity because they don’t have reason to do it. DuckDuckGo doesn’t rely on service ads, so they don’t monitor anything.
It has its own bot to crawl the internet pages and also it uses more than 400 sources to pull search results and quick answers to your query. These are used to enhance your search results and help you find exact solutions. However, DuckDuckGo doesn’t stop other websites to track you.
3. VPN (Best method to go complete anonymous)
Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best way to access the internet without revealing your activity. VPN encrypts your connection and provides a secure tunnel for all internet traffic. When you use VPN no one can know what services you are accessing, not even your ISP. They will see that you are using VPN, but they can’t say what you are doing.
It is like a train tunnel or highway tunnel, people will know that some traffic is going through the tunnel, but they won’t know numbers of cars, their speed, and the destination. The VPN works the same and hides all your internet activity. The websites and online services will not know that it is you, they will only see the IP address of VPN that you are using which can be anyone.
VPN also help you to protect your confidential information like credit card or bank login details when you use a public Wi-Fi. Even if someone has hacked the Wi-Fi, he or she won’t be able to read any details that you will enter with VPN.
Apart from encrypting your internet connection, VPN has other applications too. Suppose you want to access content like a TV show or Movie that is blocked in your country from watching. Then VPN could help you. You can use the IP Address of another country to access the blocked content. VPN is a blessing for movie lovers.
VPN also can be used to unblock the P2P traffic like the torrent. If your ISP has blocked the P2P traffic even if you want to share legit files with friends and co-workers, then you can use VPN. It makes your torrent activity undercover, and even your ISP couldn’t know what you are sharing with the torrent.
Among all these options VPN is your best choice if you love your privacy, mainly when you rely on the browser’s incognito mode.
Incognito Mode doesn’t do anything when you to try to hide your activity from everyone. Yes, it helps you if you are trying to protect your internet history from the local peoples. Your ISP, your employer will know everything that you do on the internet.
If you respect your privacy, then you should go with VPN. It encrypts all your internet traffic and makes you completely anonymous on the internet. Even, the Government and ISP will not be able to spy on you.
The Tor browser does the same, the websites and online services couldn’t track the activity back to you with your IP address. It routes your traffic through different relays and makes you look same like other Tor users.
DuckDuckGo helps you with your search queries. If you don’t want Government and big corporations to mass monitor your search activity, then DuckDuckGo is your best friend. It doesn’t track your search queries and provide you with complete privacy.
Using all these three services at the same time ensure better privacy protection against all factors.