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4 reasons private browsing isn’t as private as you think

We’ve told you in the past about how to activate the private mode in your browser. In this mode, your browser doesn’t remember what sites you visit or store any cookies from your travels.

Private browsing mode is a great way to shop for a surprise gift for that special someone, to log into multiple social media or shopping accounts on the same site with the same browser, or avoid seeing targeted ads as you browse.

Once you close the browser window, it’s supposed to be like you weren’t even using it. Unfortunately that “supposed to” can get you if you aren’t careful.

Some people think that private browsing protects them against any spying, snooping or tracking, and that just isn’t true. Here are some ways you can still get caught.


If you download any files to your computer while in private browsing mode, they don’t automatically disappear when you close the browser. Anyone can still find them on your gadget. The same goes if you made a PDF file of a receipt.

2. Purchases

Hopefully, this goes without saying, but if you made any purchases while in private browsing mode, they will show up on your bank statement. So someone, like a significant other, who has access to your account or snoops on your statement can see what you were up to.

OK, OK, you’re smart enough not to download files or expect to make secret purchases while in private browsing mode. However, there’s something a bit trickier that you might not have thought about.

3. IP Address

When you think of private browsing, you might think that no one can see what you did either on your computer or anywhere else. However, private browsing is only for your computer.

Your internet service provider can still see the IP addresses of the sites you visit. It’s the one that connects you, after all. And it’s a two-way street.

The sites you visit can also see your computer’s IP address. Even if they don’t have cookies to tell them exactly who you are, there are still records that law enforcement can trace back to you if they need to. That’s why we always say not to do anything illegal on your computer, even if you think no one will know.

To keep your IP address from giving you away, you’ll need to use a proxy or VPN service. These services route your traffic through a third-party server so your ISP doesn’t know where you’re going and other sites don’t know your real IP address.

Again, even though this does improve your privacy, law enforcement can still crack it if it needs to, so don’t do anything illegal.

4. Glitches

Like any piece of software, browsers aren’t perfect. That’s why you have to update them regularly to close holes hackers can use to attack you. Learn more about making your browser hacker-proof.

Sometimes, these holes and glitches can affect the private browsing mode. That’s what happened to Microsoft’s new Edge browser. Security experts found that it doesn’t completely wipe your browsing history from the WebCache file, which means someone who knows what they’re doing can see where you’ve gone.

The myth that private browsing is really private is just one of many that are floating around. Learn the real truth behind other tech myths you’ve probably heard and might even believe.

More tips you can’t miss:

How to turn your webcam into a surveillance cam

Navigating Nextdoor: Social media gets neighborly

How to opt out of the most popular people search sites

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