Private browsing and incognito mode: Internet’s most misunderstood tool

The term “private browsing” was coined by Apple for its Safari browser in 2005, and it has been widely accepted as an Internet feature ever since. Other browsers, including Google Chrome (with its incognito mode), Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox soon followed with their own versions of private browsing. Edge, Microsoft’s successor to Internet Explorer, also provides the same service through InPrivate. As a result, users believe they can safely browse on an unsafe device or network connection without fear.

According to a survey in 2017, almost half of American users tested private browsing mode. Most of them continue using the mode regularly. Many people use private browsing as an alternative to porn-blocking software on their desktop or mobile devices. It also offers peace of mind from prying eyes in public WiFi places like airports and coffee shops. If we’re going by what our neighbors are doing with these tools, then they seem not only safe but popular too.

But researchers found that people have a misconception about what private browsing really means — and what it does. Users often think this mode offers more protection than it actually does. For example, numerous people falsely believe the browser mode will make them anonymous, and they can browse without fear. They believe Internet service providers or employers cannot find out what sites they visited.

Pew Research Center and DuckDuckGo studies found 49% of people using private browsing are unsure what it does. These findings have led many to believe that Google has violated its agreement with people using this browser feature. In addition, a recent lawsuit alleges that users aren’t getting the protection they believe they should be getting when using Google’s incognito mode. As a result, three users filed a lawsuit against Google.

Indeed, recent studies show that private browsing does not actually protect you from prying eyes. It is still effortless to track someone if they are using this mode.

How private browsing works

Private browsing modes are a great way to browse the Internet without leaving any trace of what you were up to. You can even use the mode if your significant other shares your computer. Once you close out, it will erase all traces of where and how long you visited.

When you surf on a private browsing mode, you can explore more without any traces of your previous history. You can go on Facebook and Twitter as many times as desired. Each session is automatically opened in its unique browser window with no traceable footprints from before.

You can use Chrome’s incognito mode or Firefox’s private browsing feature for different purposes. For example, making online purchases feels like we’re starting fresh every single time.

When you set your browser to private browsing mode, you leave no trace. Any history or cookies are deleted from that session when you exit. But know this: If you bookmark a site while using private mode, it will be saved.

Some browsers offer additional protection for the user when they browse on the Internet. Private browsing mode will only keep certain browser tracks hidden at best. It is not a foolproof way to protect your privacy. At the same time, it does shield your web exercise to link it back to your device. Still, there are other methods where people can discover your browsing information and use it against you.

Private browsing is better than nothing. But remember, it can’t stop your boss (or the government) from seeing what you do online.

Why use private browsing?

The Internet can be a scary place; that is why people are always looking for ways to protect themselves. However, a study shows that most people say they use private browsing mode to be safe. This is because they want to keep their personal data secure from other users on the same device. And indeed, private browsing actually affords them this protection.

Private browsing incognito mode

Private browsing allows users to conduct searches or visit websites without leaving any trace. No one on the same device can see the history of browsing or searches you made. In addition, this way, you can log out automatically from the sites if you remember to close your window.

Private browsing keeps your online activity anonymous from advertisers. You can browse the web in secret with no fear. No one tracks you by cookies — after closing the window. There are no records to show what websites were visited and which ads may have been served as a result.

Google recommends that you use incognito mode browsing to protect your privacy. Additionally, searching in private mode will not alter future search results if you are logged into an account. It does not log the searches or videos watched while using private browsing.

What private browsing doesn’t do

Using private browsing does not mean you are anonymous online. Your ISP, employer, government agencies, schools, or people intruding on your wireless connection can monitor your browsing history. A VPN is the only way to protect your information from someone else.

Private browsing offers only a few security protections. It does not help to protect you from malware or viruses. Additionally, it won’t secure any transmission when filling out a form on the website.

It’s essential to get in the habit of closing the private browsing window every time you are finished. By this, you can clear out any collected data. Leaving it open for long periods will make matters worse and less secure.

Misconception of the word ‘private’

People often think that private browsing mode means they can browse privately. They believe that no one can see what websites they visit, but this is not the case. A misconception of the word “private” is thinking it means all-time security, whereas these modes do not actually provide that much protection.

A research study in 2018 found that people using these modes in their browsers still have misconceptions. They think private mode actually protects them. A new privacy policy was introduced to help clear up any confusion caused by this misconception.

Despite their best efforts, most browsers can’t keep your Internet browsing a secret. But don’t despair. A private mode in Chrome and Firefox is doing the job for you — sort of. Just make sure you know the limitations.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Scroll to Top