What is private or incognito browsing? Does it really give you the privacy you are looking for and protect your personal data? This is what we will know in detail.
When you open any browser and turn on the incognito mode, you are hoping that this method will provide you with the complete privacy you are looking for and prevent you from being tracked. However, what you do not know is that even if you are using a secure browser and enabling either the incognito or browsing mode, your internet browser alone doesn’t give you as much privacy as you imagine. This is why we’re going to take a quick look at all the flaws of the “privacy” modes of web browsers and then, we’ll conclude some tips on how to get Real privacy when using your favorite web browser.
Why private or incognito browsing isn’t enough?
Almost all web browsers now offer some kind of enhanced privacy mode. They are usually called private browsing mode, incognito browsing mode, secret mode, etc. With names like that, you might expect them to let you use the internet privately.
Unfortunately, this browsing is not private at all, and while there are differences in the way each web browser implements its own mode, the main function of these modes is twofold:
- Clear cookies from your browser.
- Clear browsing history from your browser.
They are doing a good job at this – but it takes a lot to make your web browsing private, clearing cookies from your browser and clearing your browsing history is a good way to mitigate some online tracking. However, many people are misled when they use browsing “private” or “disguised”.
And while the average user thinks that incognito browsing mode offers tangible protection, browser companies seem to see things differently, as there is currently a $5 billion lawsuit against Google for tracking users while they are incognito on Chrome.
Google Chrome browser warns users about the limits of incognito mode, however, they still get charged for huge amounts. Despite the fact that Google turns off cookies, it continues to spy on you and track you in other ways, and based on which browser you’re using, mostly the files that you downloaded and the bookmarks you saved won’t be deleted when you close the Incognito window.
Another problem is that your browser isn’t the only place where your browsing history can be seen. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see everything you do online, and they can pass this data on to anyone who requests it. This also applies to the network administrator, in addition, there are many spy agencies. Also, anyone who is able to monitor your unencrypted traffic or can take advantage of the connection, can track you.
Incognito Browsing Doesn’t Hide IP Address
Every device connected to the Internet has a unique IP address that also reveals your location. When you connect to the Internet, it broadcasts that unique IP address to the world, so, for basic privacy, you will need to hide your IP address.
Unfortunately, incognito and private browsing modes do not hide your IP address, and because of this, your browsing history is directly linked to your device. This information is well known these days, which is why most people hide their IP address when they connect to the Internet.
Unpopular Private Browsing Problems
Beyond the issues we just addressed, it turns out that there are several other ways in which “private” browsing information can be found outside of your web browser’s control. Here’s a quick summary:
Logging in to the service
If you log into a website or service, even in incognito mode, you will be recognized. Log into Amazon, Netflix, or even Facebook, and they will identify who you are. It doesn’t matter what browser you’re using, just signing in gives them all the info they need. The same goes for logging into any Google service. If you sign in to one of Google services , Google will be able to track you.
When you visit a website, your device performs a DNS lookup to find information about domain names. The device then caches the results of these searches. Cache speeds up navigation and reduces the load on large servers that store DNS data. This data doesn’t stay there forever, which is useful, and every device has a TTL (Time To Live) setting that controls how long the data is kept in the cache before it is deleted.
The problem arises when someone can access your device, that person can access your DNS cache and see all the websites you have visited.
Staying in the incognito browsing mode for a long time
It may seem counterintuitive, but you don’t want to stay in privacy mode on your browser for long, why? Remember that these modes work by deleting your browsing history and cookies when you log out of an incognito window, and if you don’t close your private browsing session, this data will be available and present, so it makes sense to close the window and open a new one every now and then.
When to use the private browsing mode?
There are many situations where Private Browsing is recommended. Here are some examples:
- When you use someone else’s device: By using Private Browsing mode, you can prevent your browsing history and cookies from mixing with the other person.
- When you purchase something online on a computer that more than one person uses, of course you don’t want your shopping history to stay on the computer or for family to see what you’ve been searching for or browsing.
- When you’re researching a medical issue or other private topics, searching in private browsing mode (and closing the incognito window afterward) may prevent embarrassing or confidential information from getting to the next person using the device.
How to protect your privacy?
We’ve just looked at some of the situations where private or incognito browsing can come in handy, but like we said, the Private Browsing mode can’t secure your data, protect privacy, or prevent the websites you visit from monitoring your IP address (thus identifying the device you’re using). Therefore, you need more protection for your privacy and personal data.
Use a secure browser
A browser can be a good tool for browsing the web with privacy, or it can be a monitoring and data collection tool for ad networks, thus, you will need to choose a browser that gives you this option like TOR, Brave or even Ungoogled Chromium and you will get the privacy you are looking for.
Use a VPN
Another important privacy tool is VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, and it works by creating an encrypted connection over the Internet. This prevents snooping or attempting to violate your privacy by intercepting the traffic flowing between your device and the Internet.
Also, with the VPN tool your DNS lookups are encrypted, instead of using the DNS managed by your ISP, the VPN encrypts your DNS lookups and sends them to its secure DNS. This means that your ISP cannot use these searches to record where you go on the Internet, there is no DNS cache on your device for anyone to hack into, and your IP address is hidden from the sites you visit, so, you get protection from trackers and malicious ad attacks.
Use an ad blocker
Even with Private Browsing and Incognito modes enabled, ads and trackers may still appear on your browser. This will vary depending on the browser you are using and the preferences you have enabled, so to protect yourself from ad networks and trackers, use a powerful ad blocker.
Finally, while incognito and private mode and all the other “privacy” modes included in today’s web browsers are very useful, they are not as privacy-friendly as they seem and will not allow you to surf the web incognito as you would imagine, however, they are good tools for some uses. So, if you really want to browse privately, combine private browsing mode with a powerful VPN and don’t forget an ad blocker and a secure browser. With that combination you will get comprehensive protection.