We all know it's pretty difficult to have any secrets if you're frequently browsing and sharing online. Although not everyone is aware of it, and probably even fewer people actively use it, most web browsers offer a private mode. It is also known as "incognito mode."
But the name is a little deceiving. The purpose behind incognito mode is to be able to search the internet without your browser history being saved. But if you're thinking "well great, I can search anything and no one will ever know, well, you'd be wrong!
While the secret browsing modes do offer a different level of privacy than the regular versions, they fall a bit short in doing what people think they are capable of. As in, your browsing may not be as hidden as you'd like.
Most don't know what private browsing really means
A recent study by the University of Chicago shows most people are unaware of what private browsing actually is. As researchers discovered, most people overrate its abilities.
The study revolved around 460 participants who were polled on various browser-related topics, with more than 56 percent believing their search history would not be saved. Nearly 47 percent of them felt bookmarks that were saved in private mode would not show up, while just more than 40 percent wrongly assumed incognito browsing would hide their location.
Along with that, the study revealed that more than 25 percent of those surveyed believed their public IP addresses would be hidden. Spoiler alert: it isn't.
So what are the benefits?
Given the newfound emphasis on internet privacy, it is likely more people will look into what private or incognito browsing has to offer. While they do not necessarily accomplish everything people think, there are some benefits.
The important thing, as is always the case, is to be fully aware of what it does, and does not, do. Curious? Here you go:
Google Chrome (Incognito Mode)
To turn on Incognito Mode in Chrome:
- Open Firefox web browser
- Press Ctrl+Shift+N or...
- Click on the three vertical dots near the top-right corner to open a drop-down menu
- Select "New incognito window"
Here's what Chrome's Incognito browsing does:
- Will not save your browsing history, cookies, site data or any information entered into forms
- Will store any files you downloaded or bookmarks you created
- Activity will not be hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or internet service provider
Microsoft Edge (InPrivate)
To turn on InPrivate browsing in Edge:
- Open Microsoft Edge browser
- Click on the three horizontal dots near the top-right corner to open a drop-down menu
- Choose "New InPrivate window"
Here's what Edge's InPrivate browsing does:
- Will not save your browsing history, temporary internet files and cookies
- Microsoft's browsers will disable any third-party toolbars you might have installed when you start an In Private session.
Mozilla Firefox (Private Browsing)
To turn on private browsing in Firefox:
- Open Firefox web browser
- Press Ctrl+Shift+P or...
- Click on the three horizontal bars near top-right corner to open drop-down menu
- Select "New Private Window"
Here's what Firefox's private browsing does:
Safari (Private Browsing)
To turn on private browsing in Safari:
- Open the Safari web browser:
- Choose File > New Private Window (Command-Shift-N).
- It will not save your browsing history and it will ask websites you visit not to track you
- It doesn't hide your IP address from Web servers, so any activity from your computers will still trace back to your Internet connection
So what's the moral of the story here? When push comes to shove, there really is no such thing as true privacy on the internet.
Your browsers are not the only thing putting your data at risk
Sites like Facebook and Google track your online activity so they can provide users with targeted ads. It's not just websites either, in fact, many smartphone apps take part in the targeted ad process. Click here to see why you should be wary.