You may have come across “incognito mode” in Google Chrome or Private Browsing in Firefox and used it without really knowing how incognito it actually makes you. If you have, then you would have also noticed the disclaimer it comes with saying “Going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.” So what does the incognito mode or private mode actually mean for your privacy?
How Safe Is Incognito Mode?
Regular Browsing vs Private Browsing
Let’s see the difference between regular browsing and private browsing.
Browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera keep a record of all the data you enter into their address bar or search bar and all the sites you visit and store them on your computer for various purposes. They save your browsing history, cookies, and other details. This works out to be a double-edged sword as your browsing history is used to give you a better browsing experience in future but it also has recorded personal information and sensitive data.
Browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer have introduced methods of private browsing that allows you to browse the internet without recording your search history and storing information on your computer. There is no storage of data in cookies or flash cookies as they are deleted when you close the incognito window.
Incognito mode has proved hugely successful as it prevents sites like Facebook and Instagram etc. from tracking your movements and then sending you advertisements related to your searches. It is useful when you are making a bank transaction or having a conversation that you might not want to be recorded on your PC (If you want to check ‘incognito mode’ out, use Ctrl+Shift+N to open a new incognito window.)
Cool, But Is Incognito Really Safe?
Before you start thinking that “private mode” is the answer to all your prayers and that it is the safest mode to browse the internet, you should know that it doesn’t give you anonymity by hiding your identity online. Nor does it prevent your ISP from knowing all the websites you’ve visited and for how long you stayed online. It doesn’t hide your IP address so your location can still be seen. It only ensures there is no record of your online activity on your PC and on your Google account and it is useful to prevent others who may use your PC from seeing the sites you have visited.
Unfortunately, the extent of your privacy on incognito mode is only on the device you are using and it is still possible to see your searches and sites you visit through your IP address.
VPN – The Safest Option
It is difficult to guarantee 100% internet safety in today’s world and the term “internet safety” itself has become an oxymoron. Using private mode on your computer is definitely not an invisibility cloak that you use to instantly give you anonymity and hide you but there is another way and that is by using a good VPN.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) enables you to be anonymous by changing your IP address and disguising your actual location. Anyone monitoring your movements or a website that you visit won’t know who you are or where you are. It also ensures that all data leaving your phone or computer is encrypted end to end, with bank-level security to ensure your browsing history, download history etc. is not stored.
Here’s a list of VPN services you can use to add an extra layer of security and privacy to all your browsing activities.
Combine Incognito and VPN
The incognito mode does improve your level of privacy when compared to normal, vanilla browsing by changing the way your internet browser behaves but it does not change the behavior of everything else. If you really want to enhance your privacy and protect your data you should use a VPN over the internet as this helps you keep your data and passwords out of reach of hackers.
And if you want to hide your browsing details from someone who has access to your system, it’s best to use a VPN with incognito mode. This way, you’ll be safe from your ISP, hackers as well as your computer-partner. You can also use Tor browser as it does not store any information of your browsing and helps you in anonymity as well.