Privacy is the biggest debacle of the modern internet world. A 2019 CIGI-IPOS survey on internet security and trust reported that one in two persons would disclose less information online because they don’t trust the internet.
Almost every website you visit on the internet today uses a tracking system to ID you. Consumers are increasingly aware of these activities and how unsafe it is to leave their data trails all over the place. One way they have curtailed this is by using Incognito mode.
Remember when you had to use a public computer to access your email account? You needed to ensure that you did not keep a history of activities on the device. Using Incognito mode would help achieve that.
This article will explore this online privacy tool, how it works, when and why you should use it, and how effective it is in ensuring online privacy.
Let’s get started with what exactly it is.
What is Incognito Mode?
Incognito Mode is also called Private Browsing or InPrivate Browsing, or Private Window. It is a feature of popular web browsers today that helps internet users retain some form of control over their data online.
It is typically a temporary browsing session, and all local data associated with the session is cleared as soon as the session is closed. Your browsing history, cookies, cache, and other forms of browsing data are also deleted.
The history of this browser feature can be traced back to 2005, Apple’s Safari. It became mainstream when Internet Explorer was released with the feature in 2008. Since then, every major browser has supported a form of the feature.
How does Incognito Mode Work?
Three things happen when you use your browser in Incognito Mode.
- Your browsing history is not recorded.
Web browsers keep a list of web pages you visit by default. This browsing history helps you easily retrace your steps if you have to. In Incognito mode, this functionality is suspended. Your browsing history will be kept private from anyone else using the device.
- The browser doesn’t store cookies and sites data from the session
When you visit web pages, your browser stores all text and pictures required by those web pages on your device. This data is called web cache. This speeds up the loading speed of web pages when you revisit them.
Also, your browser stores cookies. Cookies are small text files that contain information about the pages you visit. They are used to create customized web pages and ads based on your online behavior.
When your browser is in Incognito mode, it doesn’t store this data.
- The browser forgets all forms of permissions and information you entered during the session.
Some websites require that you log in before you access their content. Others require permission to use components of your device, like microphones. If you visit such websites in Incognito mode, your browser automatically forgets all those forms of data.
It will also not suggest searches or auto-complete your forms or queries. This is because these features require a history of past behaviors. A lack of that makes it impossible for the browser to utilize those features.
Essentially, incognito mode keeps your browsing session private and away from the prying eyes on your device. One can say incognito mode hides your identity online. However, it is only genuinely private if you close the incognito window or tabs at the end of your browsing session.
How to Use Incognito Mode On 4 Popular Browsers
So, how do you use incognito mode?
Popular web browsers offer some form of incognito browsing, and they call it by different names. Safari and Mozilla Firefox call it ‘Private Browsing’ while Microsoft Edge calls it InPrivate Browsing. And that’s what Chrome’s Incognito Mode is. Here is how you can use the incognito mode on these browsers.
Using the incognito mode in Chrome on mobile devices and desktop devices is quite similar.
Open the Chrome browser app to launch an incognito window. Select the More button (three dots) in the upper right corner, then New Incognito Window.
Alternatively, select File, then New Incognito Window from the menu bar.
Your browser will launch a new incognito window, complete with the incognito icon (glasses and a fedora hat) in the top right corner. In the upper right corner, select the More button (three dots), then select New Incognito Window.
You can also use a keyboard shortcut:
- Ctrl + Shift + n on Windows or
- Command (⌘) + Shift + N on Mac
An incognito window in the Edge browser is called an InPrivate tab. To access the feature, open the Microsoft Edge app. Then, Right-click the Microsoft Edge logo in the taskbar and select “New InPrivate window.”
You can also launch an InPrivate session by right-clicking a link within Edge and selecting Open in InPrivate Window on the pop-up menu.
The browser indicates a private browsing session with a blue-colored oval marked “In Private” to the right of the address bar and a full-black screen.
You can also use the keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl+Shift+P to launch an InPrivate window in the browser.
An incognito window in Safari is called a Private Tab. To access the feature on a Mac, open the Safari browser app. On the menu bar, select File, then select New Private Window. You’ll see a banner at the top of the new window confirming that “Private Browsing Enabled.”
The keyboard shortcut: Shift+Command+N opens a private tab in Safari.
An incognito window or tab in Firefox is also called a Private Tab.
First, Open the Firefox browser app. Then find the menu button (three lines) in the top right corner, and select New Private Window from the displayed menu options. You’ll see a purple mask logo in the top right corner of the new window; this indicates that incognito mode is activated.
You can also use the keyboard shortcuts:
- Ctrl + Shift + N for Windows or
- Command (⌘) + Shift + N on Mac
What is Incognito Mode Used For
You will want to use incognito mode for the following reasons:
1. To run multiple browsing sessions without interference on the same device
With incognito mode, you can log in to multiple accounts simultaneously. For instance, you could log into your work account from an Incognito window while using your account from a normal window.
Another instance is when a friend wants to log in to their social media account with your device. They could do this in a separate incognito window so you wouldn’t have to log out of your account.
2. To keep browsing history private.
In situations where you use a public computer to access the internet, you will want your information to remain private. When you use incognito mode, the browser does not save any of your personal information on the public device.
As a result, the security risk associated with such devices is reduced. The same goes for borrowing a friend’s or family member’s phone or computer—even if you trust them, you don’t want to put your data at risk if their device is compromised.
You may visit a website that you do not want to be saved to your browser history or stored cookies—perhaps you are planning a surprise for someone with whom you share a device, or you need to research sensitive health or financial issue. Using incognito mode, for whatever reason, prevents your activity from being recorded in your browser history.
3. To conduct tests on web pages and neutral browsing sessions
Web developers also use incognito mode to run tests on their websites. They use it to avoid web caching because it interferes with new changes on the web pages.
You may want to conduct a search without allowing your previous search history to influence your results, or you may want to see how your blog or website appears from a neutral, outside perspective. Incognito mode can simulate how a website would appear if you visited it for the first time.
4. To see less targeted ads.
When you use incognito mode, web tracking becomes more difficult. Because your browser does not store cookies, it is difficult for websites to remember you the next time you visit. As a result, they will be unable to serve personalized ads.
If you are logged in to the website, web tracking is possible. Furthermore, if the website employs web tracking other than the cookie system, they may be able to track your online activities.
Can Incognito Mode Keep You Anonymous?
Incognito mode cannot keep you fully anonymous on the internet. It is a browser-level feature, and as such, it can only prevent other people who may use the same computer from seeing your browsing history.
Anyone with access to the link between your system and the web server can still view the web pages you visit. Furthermore, these browsing data may be logged and/or cached along the way by other machines (such as those owned by your internet service provider).
According to Google, private browsing in chrome “doesn’t prevent you from telling a website who you are.” So if you visit websites where you log in to your account with them, you can still be tracked online by those sites.
Essentially, Incognito mode prevents your browsing history from being stored on your computer. However, it cannot stop machines between your computer and the web server from seeing the web pages you request, nor can it prevent web tracking with sophisticated methods like browser fingerprinting.
If you want complete privacy or total anonymity on the internet, you might be aiming for a flying bird. It is difficult to achieve because the internet is always evolving, and newer ways to track users are constantly developed.
You might be able to shoot down a flying bird if you try hard enough and use effective weapons.
Privacy-minded individuals can also achieve a high level of anonymity on the internet if they have access to the right tools. Anti-detect browsers like Incogniton are prime examples of these tools. You will be able to enact whatever level of anonymity you need for your browsing session.
With Incogniton, you don’t need to open multiple incognito tabs every time you use the internet. You can replace multiple tabs or computers with virtual browser profiles and still be assured that your data is safe and private. Each user profile gets a unique browser fingerprint, enabling them to go beyond internet tracking techniques like browser fingerprinting.
You will enjoy all these features while still being able to do your everyday internet browsing. Incogniton is a user-friendly web browser, and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems.
Incognito Mode Vs Anti-detect Browser
At this point, we should clarify the difference between Incognito Mode in Chrome and an anti-detect browser. While both are privacy tools, incognito mode is a feature in the normal web browsers while an anti-detect browser, as the name depicts, is a web browser.
If you’re just someone that doesn’t like that websites track your data you can keep using the Incognito feature of Chrome.
However, if you need to have multiple (isolated) browser environments and you need to have your session data saved, then an anti detect browser such as Incogniton would be a good fit.
So far, we have discussed how incognito mode works in modern web browsers and its limitations in ensuring a private browsing experience.
Keep in mind that Incognito mode is a handy tool in certain situations, like when you have to use a public device. However, it is grossly inadequate for use as the sole tool in your privacy arsenal for online interactions.
A robust arsenal for private browsing would include a variety of tools, and anti-detect browsers are must-haves. While VPNs are good tools, you have to be cautious about using them. See this article about VPN’s for extra information.
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