How Secure Is Incognito Mode?
Incognito mode is the go-to browsing method for many users who want to limit their web activity from being monitored. But is it really that secure? While incognito mode can keep your search history spotless, there are certain restrictions to keep in mind. Depending on the level of protection you want, you might need to turn to other resources.
Furthermore, there are many misconceptions about incognito mode and what it can and cannot do. In this article, we’ll explore the limits of private browsing and look into some possible alternatives to the feature. Keep reading to learn more about data protection and web tracking.
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Is Incognito Mode Really All I Need?
Going incognito is a great way to protect your privacy if you share a computer with other users. After all, there’s no reason why your coworkers should have an insight into your local search history.
Here are some of the main benefits that come with private browsing:
- No visible browsing history. Of course, the main reason why most people browse in incognito mode is to hide their search history. When you enable the feature, the browser will stop tracking your activity. The feature is super convenient if you want to use your work computer for private purposes, like online shopping or streaming music (if that’s permitted).
- Multiple accounts are allowed. Without incognito mode, you’ll constantly have to switch between different accounts if there’s more than one user. However, once you go private, the browser won’t save the login info, so there’ll be no need for that.
However, outside of these areas, there’s not much incognito mode can do. For example, private browsing can’t do the following:
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- Hide your IP address. This is the misconception we mentioned earlier. Some people think that going private will keep their server location from being traced, but that’s not the case. While your device won’t be able to access the information, it’ll still be visible to the service provider. Not only can your IP address be detected, but it can also be collected and sold to a third-party website.
- Protect the site data. While incognito mode can collect cookies, that’s about it when it comes to data protection. Even when you’re private browsing, websites can still collect your personal information.
So, is there another way to secure your digital privacy? Of course. Here are two more advanced alternatives you can try for optimal protection:
- Connect to a VPN. Virtual private networks or VPNs are highly secure encryption tools that limit web tracking and other invasive data collecting methods. Once you sign up for the service, you’ll be able to hide your IP address and other personal information from third-party websites. There’s a wide range of VPNs on the market, and even some free versions are available.
- Use Tor. The software comes with an encrypted browser meant to prevent internet service providers from tracking your data. It’s entirely free and works even better when paired with a solid VPN.
How to Browse in Private
There are quite a few ways to browse the internet in private. Most web browsers and devices have various options to secure your online activity. In this section, we’ll discuss those methods in detail.
Use a VPN
Before we dive into private browsing on your device, one of the most effective (and simple) ways to secure your internet activities is using a VPN. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, a software tool that works on most devices and with all websites regardless of which browser you’re using. Although there are a lot of VPNs out there, we use ExpressVPN most often because it’s reliable, functional, and user-friendly.
If you do have a VPN, you can browse in peace without worry of your ISP, marketers, and others tracking your behavior. If you have a VPN, do this to browse privately:
- Open the ExpressVPN application on your device.
- Select a city or country (remember, the further the location your select the more lag you may experience).
- Tap on the Power icon to activate your VPN and wait for it to say ‘Connected.’
Using this method is really simple and you won’t have any problems as long as your VPN is activated. If you have yet to get a VPN, we have some more options to help you browser privately.
Use Your Device’s Native Features
As you can see, several perks come with incognito mode, one of them being it’s super easy to enable. For this article, we’ll use Google Chrome and Safari browsers, but the steps can be applied to the most popular search engines.
Also, we included separate instructions for different devices since the method can slightly vary depending on the model and brand.
As mentioned, we’re using Google Chrome as a reference. So, without further ado, here’s how to enable incognito mode with a PC:
- Launch the Chrome browser by clicking the desktop icon.
- Navigate to the top-right corner of the screen and click on the three vertical dots. Next, choose “New Incognito Window” from the drop-down list.
- You’ll be redirected to a new window. Check if the incognito icon (a “spy” figure consisting of a hat and dark glasses) is showing. If yes, start browsing.
A quicker way to do it is to use a keyboard shortcut. For Windows and Linux users, hold “Ctrl + Shift + N” to open a new private window.
Mac users can enable incognito mode with the Safari browser just as easily. Here’s how:
- Open Safari and click on the “File” tab in the menu bar above.
- Select “New Private Window” from the drop-down list.
- For a faster version, use the “Shift + Command + N” shortcut.
Once you’re done, you’ll see a notification at the top of the window that confirms private browsing has been enabled.
You can also set Safari to automatically open a private window every time you browse. Here’s how:
- Launch the Safari browser app and click on the “Safari” tab in the menu bar above.
- From the drop-down panel, choose “Preferences.” You can also use the “Command +” keyboard shortcut.
- Open the “General” tab and expand the “Safari Opens With” menu.
- Check the “New Private Window” option in the drop-down panel.
There’s no reason why you can’t browse incognito mode with your phone. Here’s how to enable the feature with an Android device:
- Tap the Chrome icon to open the browser app.
- In the top right corner of the screen, tap the three vertical dots. Then, select “New Incognito Tab” from the drop-down panel.
- You’ll be redirected to a new window. If you see the incognito mode icon in the top-left corner, you can continue to browse.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do any screenshots with the incognito mode enabled.
Finally, iPhone users can turn on incognito mode with the following steps:
- First, launch the Safari app from your home screen or Applications folder.
- In the bottom-right corner, tap the “New Page” button.
- At the bottom of the screen, choose “Private,” then tap the “+” icon.
- Hit “Done” to start browsing.
One way to know you’ve successfully enabled the feature is if the window looks darker than usual.
Going Under the Radar
Incognito mode can come in handy when you’re using a public computer and need to look up some personal stuff. It’ll keep your online activity hidden from other users, ensuring the local search history remains intact. Also, it’s a solid line of defense against those pesky cookies.
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However, if you’re seriously concerned about web tracking and data collecting, it’s best to turn to alternative solutions. Private networks and encrypted browsers are more trustworthy options when it comes to data security.
How often do you use incognito mode? What do you think about cookies and other forms of data-collecting? Comment below and tell us your preferred method of browsing.