Does Browser Incognito Mode Protect You?Posted on 15th February 2019
Short answer – no. Long answer – it depends on what type of protection you are seeking. Let’s dive in and figure out the specifications.
If you have a tiny bit of interest in the cybersecurity, you know that Google isn’t very good with user’s privacy. And not because it doesn’t know to – it doesn’t want to. A lot of users choose their browser’s private mode as the go-to tool for an anonymous and safe online experience. But is it actually safe, or just a clever presence? Let’s find out!
So, to make sure your data is handled carefully as it deserves to be, you need to take the privacy matters in your own hands.
What is the Incognito Mode?
An incognito or private mode is a handy feature many browsers add to their main functions. It allows you to browse the web without storing the data on your browser, so no one can retrieve it later. However, it’s not a foolproof method of taking care of your privacy issues. Here’s what private browsing can and can’t do.
- It can:
- Delete cookies as soon as you close the window
- Don’t record the websites you visit in the history
- Change your IP and hide your traffic from external observers
- Protect you from hackers and snoopers preying on your data
While private mode can’t be your only privacy solution if you want to keep your information from the government agencies and hackers, it is useful for a couple of simple functions. It’s also present in most of the popular browsers (or probably in all of them) and is free. When used wisely, it can become a powerful addition to other security tools in your arsenal.
It is a nice tool to use when, for example, browsing on a public computer or lending your device to a friend. The private mode can be also helpful when browsing for plane tickets or booking accommodation. Since it prevents websites from saving cookies, so they won’t be able to hike the prices up, since they wouldn’t know you’ve already looked up the destinations.
How to Go Incognito
To start browsing in the private mode, open your browser, click on the Menu sign (usually three dots or three lines somewhere near the top-right corner), and find an option “Open new incognito window.” You’ll also see a combination of hotkeys at the right.
Here are combinations for the most popular browsers for Windows and MacOS respectively:
Chrome: Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + N
Opera: Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + N
Mozilla: Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + P
Safari: ⌘ + Shift + N
If you frequently need to use the function, you can enable default incognito mode in the settings of your browser, so you won’t need to worry about forgetting to delete your history. This is especially convenient for shared devices.
Limitations of the Incognito Mode
If browsers are the only tool you need to keep your data private online, you are probably living in an informational utopia. Unfortunately, for now, it isn’t true, and while browsers like Tor can ensure your safety and anonymity, enabling Private mode in a mainstream browser isn’t enough.
Incognito mode only prevents your browser and your device from keeping track of the online activities, but the ISP, government agencies, websites and other third parties interested in your data still can get their hands on it as long as you don’t mask your IP. And incognito mode can’t mask your IP.
Also, if you log in on websites like Facebook or Amazon, they immediately start tracking you. Moreover, when you enter your Google account while under the incognito mode in Google Chrome, it will also start tracking you, rendering the whole “incognito” thing useless.
Chrome and Mozilla at least warn you every time you switch to the private mode that it won’t conceal your actions from the ISP, employer or government, props to them.
How to Become Truly Incognito Online
We assume you have come here for the true anonymity, and here’s how to achieve it. First of all, you can get a browser that truly protects your personal data. Here are a few suggestions:
Don’t be surprised by our first pick – with the right settings it can be a powerful privacy tool equal to its counterparts in the list. However, if you don’t know how or don’t want to meddle with the settings, choose either Tor or Vivaldi.
If you aren’t in the mood for such major life changes as adopting a new browser, you can stick with your old one, but upgrade it with some privacy extensions. Look for the best ones in the article we have prepared. (link)
And don’t forget about a VPN, of course! It covers the important one important thing an incognito mode can’t – your IP leak. VeePN changes your IP a remote address in a country of your choice, thus making tracking impossible. VeePN also encrypts your traffic using military-level systems and even hides the fact you are using a VPN at all.
For more privacy-related articles, search our blog!