Incognito has a pretty catchy name - it sounds private, secure, and makes you feel like you can browse the web without leaving a recordable trace. However, the reality of incognito browsers is quite contrary.
While the incognito browser does affect the way your browser stores you browsing history, it does not affect your digital print online.
Using incognito, your searches, visited pages and tracking cookies aren’t stored in your browser, yet websites, ISPs, and Governments still know exactly what you’ve been up to online.
How Browsers Work
Whether you know it or not, your browser keeps a detailed record of your browsing activities. Everything you do online leaves a digital footprint and every footprint you leave is recorded by your browser. This information includes:
- Cookies stored from websites
- Autocomplete data including usernames, passwords, addresses and more
- Your download history
- Searches you’ve entered
- Your cache (bits of saved pages that increase loading times)
If at any time you didn't want someone to have access to all of this personal data, you've likely used an incognito browser. Read on to find out why your data still isn't secure when using one.
How Incognito Browsers Work
Using your browser’s incognito mode is appealing to many users since it doesn’t store your history for that browsing session. That means that information can’t be accessed by a user who jumps on the same device afterward. However, you’ll need to make sure you exit the browser after your session to ensure that the cookies stored during the session do not remain in your browser.
Here are a few benefits of using incognito mode:
- Save Money: When searching for flights, hotels, rental cars and more, websites hike prices based on your search activity. If you use a private browser, the cookies are not saved after your experience, meaning websites won’t remember you visiting their site.
- SLog into Multiple Accounts: Being logged into multiple accounts can be helpful for those who, for example, manage different social media accounts and need to be logged into two Twitter accounts at the same time.
- SKeep Your Data Private: If more than one person has access to a device, an incognito browser can keep your browsing information private form users with the same access. However, although others may not be able to see your history, incognito is not totally private – websites, Internet Service Providers, governments and employers are still able to see what you’re doing online.
Why Your Browser Isn't Actually That Private
If you’re trying to protect your browsing details from someone you’re sharing a computer with, you’re in luck. An incognito browser will do just that. However, if you’re trying to keep your history out of the hands of other people, you’ll need something a bit more sophisticated than an incognito browser.
Even in incognito mode, your IP address gives away all of our browsing details. For example, the last incognito browsing session you had still recorded every website you connected to, connection logs and timestamps of when you connected to each site, downloads and more.
If you look closely at the text that appears when you open your incognito browser, you’ll see that they state this clearly:
What Can Still Be Seen Using Incognito?
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see everything you’re doing online. Your ISP can monitor all of your Internet traffic, meaning they can still track and store all your browsing details and sell that information to third parties.
If you're at work, your employer can also see all of your Internet activities. Incognito makes no difference to your boss, they can still see everything you access, even if your using your own device but are connected to company Wi-Fi.
Additionally, every website you visit still recognizes you and your device. Online tracking allows them to determine how long you’ve visited the site and enables them to store information so they can personalize targeted advertisements.
How to Browse Privately
If you'd like to access the Internet without anyone else being to monitor your private browsing session, you’ll need extra software to make that happen. To mask your online data, you should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This encrypts your data and reroutes it through an anonymous server, keeping your details completely confidential. That means your employer, the Government, your ISP or anyone else cannot see a single thing you’ve been up to online.
A VPN also provides you with a new, anonymous IP address. That means websites can no longer track or trace your online activities back to you. You can remain completely anonymous.