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Nowadays, more and more of us are concerned about our privacy on the internet. There are many tools available to better protect our data, and one popular option is probably available right now on your web browser: “Incognito mode.”
We’ll explore how incognito mode works, how it can help protect your browsing data, and, importantly, ways it isn’t a magic solution to all your privacy concerns.
What is Incognito Mode?
You’ve probably noticed that your web browser collects and stores data as you surf the web – maybe your name pops up when you’re filling out a form, or you reference your history to find that Wikipedia page you were reading. Incognito mode, or private browsing or privacy mode, is a feature available in most web browsers that allows users to browse the internet without storing local data such as browsing history, search history, and cookies. Incognito is available in popular browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari. It’s a way to let your digital footprints melt away in the cybersnow after you close the browser window.
How Does Incognito Mode Work?
When you open a new incognito window, the browser operates in a temporary session that isolates it from the regular browsing mode. This means that your browsing history, passwords, and other personal information aren’t saved in the browser or device. While this provides a layer of privacy, it’s critical to understand that your web activities don’t become totally invisible – websites you visit, your internet service provider, and, in some cases, your employer are still often able to track your activity.
Because we’re fans of data privacy, we recommend using incognito mode to boost how much data you share around the web. Here are some reasons to open an incognito mode window:
Incognito mode can work as a shield against prying eyes, especially when using a shared computer or a public device. It prevents others from accessing your personal information and passwords left behind during regular browsing sessions. However, when you use public wi-fi or a public computer, avoid accessing sensitive accounts, like email or banking, altogether.
Avoiding Targeted Ads
Ever noticed how ads seem to follow you around the internet? Incognito mode can help reduce targeted advertising by preventing websites from tracking your online behavior and tailoring ads based on browsing history.
With incognito mode, you might be able to get around the paywalls set up for online news outlets or other content. Incognito mode might be to get around these restrictions, as it doesn’t store cookies that websites use to track your visits. However, many paywalls won’t let you pass even with incognito mode, or they might not let you see content at all.
Safer Online Shopping
When making online purchases, incognito mode can help you compare prices. It prevents the automatic saving of your payment information and ensures a clean slate with each session. You might find that websites, especially travel websites, show you different prices when they aren’t able to track your web activity well.
Testing and Development
If you’re a web developer, you might use incognito mode to test websites without interference from cached data or stored login credentials. This allows for a more accurate representation of how a website behaves for new users.
What Incognito Mode Can’t Do
Incognito mode provides a layer of privacy, but it isn’t foolproof or a magic solution to data privacy. It doesn’t hide your online activity from your ISP or employer, for example, and if you log into websites through a social media or email account, your incognito window doesn’t hide them from you. Furthermore, your activity during an incognito session might be tracked in some way until you close the window.
You can take your data privacy skills to the next level by adopting a few more behaviors beyond incognito mode:
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide your location and IP address from websites
- Regularly check your account and app permissions to fit your comfort level
- Use a password manager to generate and store hundreds of long, complex, and unique passwords
- Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for any account that permits it to add another layer of protection to your login credentials
- Turn on automatic updates to ensure you have the latest security features
Incognito mode is a valuable tool for safeguarding your internet activity, offering enhanced privacy and a clean browsing experience. Use it as a starting point for adopting a bunch of data privacy behaviors to stay secure online.