Do you use Google Chrome's private browsing function, the incognito mode? Here's what it does and doesn't do.
We are all guilty of using the internet in a way we don't always like to share. From awkward questions to awkward explorations, there are tons of reasons why most people don't actively share their search history.
While some users constantly delete history and cookies the old fashioned way, most browsers offer a special setting to help “hide” activity without further action. Google Chrome's Incognito Mode is easily one of the most popular privacy features, but is Incognito Mode all it's cut out to be?
Examining what Incognito mode does may make you think twice about how safe you are while using it.
What is Incognito mode
Incognito mode is a special setting offered to Google Chrome users (although Firefox and Microsoft Edge users also have similar private browsing options under a different name). This mode allows you to surf the internet "privately".
Browsing history, cookies, site data and form information are not saved on your device while you are using it. Usually, when you use Internet browsers, they store specific types of information for both monetary and optimization purposes.
Many platforms use the information they store locally about you to help design targeted advertisements or save your address or name to facilitate filling out online forms.
We've all experienced this at one time or another on social media where ad placements seem too good to be true. For example, if someone were to visit many different sites that sell backpacks, you might notice that you get ads for similar bags.
Sometimes, platforms go a step further. They may try to infer information about your demographics to serve further possibly related advertisements with enough information. “Oh, did you look for backpacks and textbooks today? You're probably a college student more likely to click on these specific ads offering back-to-school clothing sales. ”
In fact, some people like their personalized ads, so platforms claim they improve the user experience. However, many believe that these practices demonstrate a significant invasion of privacy and outright exploitation.
Additionally, some find it embarrassing when their targeted ads suggest things they would rather keep secret. Imagine if a few wrong clicks led to an unstoppable tide of horrible ads you hated.
Incognito mode prevents these actions without having to do anything to your history afterwards.
Is the Incognito mode safer than normal Internet browsing?
Whether or not private browsing is a better security option boils down to how you define "security". Somehow, it does.
Not saving your personal information in forms can help preserve your privacy if someone gets their hands on your device. Imagine the information someone would have at their disposal if you left your laptop or phone unlocked in public.
Saved information allows people to access your bank account or address simply by being in the right place at the right time. Of course, you have to face some more significant concerns when leaving essential electronics outdoors, and there are plenty of ways to prevent people from accessing information from your device.
Some people are less concerned about thieves physically obtaining their information by stealing their electronic devices and more concerned about companies selling their data. By not allowing your device to track your history, you prevent large companies from using your data to target you or ads on your computer to reveal your private interests to other users.
However, when it comes to things like malicious software or data leaks, Incognito mode won't help you. These security issues are more complex than stealing locally stored data from your device.
If you accidentally click on a suspicious link, open a shady file, or fall for a phishing scam, pausing your browsing history won't prevent viruses from installing on your computer. These viruses can use keyloggers or other software to steal your login information, even if you don't save it on your device.
No clearing of internet history will protect your machine from viruses that damage hardware. It will also not stop you from scams if you surrender your information voluntarily but unknowingly.
Incognito mode does not protect third parties from seeing your information any more than normal browsing would. It means that your searches would have surfaced during any malicious activity or if the government wanted to look into your history.
The use of the incognito mode is comparable to the use of an Internet Explorer in general and therefore to the deletion of all the history immediately afterwards. Of course, this alone already has some advantages.
Unless you know of any hacker or computer expert, the chances are that Incognito mode will keep your internet activities private from anyone who shares your devices. You won't have to worry that your computer will offer embarrassing suggestions about your search history when someone picks up your devices and starts typing something in the system tray.
However, if you don't share your computer with anyone, you won't see much difference here. In many ways, this mode forces you to practice general internet privacy measures like regularly clearing your internet history and never saving passwords.
It's a fantastic way to make sure you practice these basic things in cases where you need to use shared devices; however, if you think that the incognito mode will save you from outside interference, such as that of the government or the police, you are wrong.
If you break the law by torrenting movies or accessing illegal material, Incognito Mode won't protect you. Don't let this scare you from looking for harmless and legal things.
Typically, no one routinely watches your internet activity. Additionally, it takes effort, resources and paperwork for anyone to contact your internet provider and get a record of your online usage.
The authorities reserve the right to do this for hardened criminals. No warrants will be needed because you searched for embarrassing symptoms or googled something mortifying. These warrants are generally for people who break strict laws and put people in danger.
Do you have to use the incognito mode?
Using incognito mode is a great way to help protect your internet browsing from other users. It helps prevent unwanted information from being stored on your computer and causes unwanted embarrassment. It's not perfect, but in the fight to keep your privacy, every little help.