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Will Incognito Or Private Mode Make Browsing The Web Anonymous?

IT Biz Today Staff

A private browsing setting is a feature that can be helpful for you to hide your browsing history from people who make use of the same computer.

There is no denying the fact that private (or incognito) mode can help mask your activities to some extent. However, there are still many methods to track your actions. It is not just people in your network who can do the tracking but your ISP, hackers, and the government can track your actions.

What Are The Main Features Of Private Browsing Mode?

Let us start with the definition of private or incognito mode. The private browsing feature was first found in the Safari browser of Apple in 2005. Rival browsers including Google and Mozilla incorporated the feature without delaying much. The private or incognito mode was then developed as a standard for web browsers.

Private browsing mode creates a separate browsing section that is isolated from the main section. None of the sites you have visited are recorded in your device history. Moreover, if you have visited a website making use of private mode, the cookie related to the site will not be saved as you close the browser window.

There is another side to this feature. Private browsing tabs will not be able to access the cookies that you use in the main session. Consider for instance you have logged in to Facebook in the main browser window and then entered the incognito mode to go to Facebook. You will have to login again to reach your Facebook account.

Third-party websites find it tough to track your activity while you are browsing in the incognito mode. You can access multiple web accounts with relative ease.

You will also find it easier to get around the so-called soft paywalls; websites where you are granted access to a few pages before being asked to log in or subscribe.

Limitations Of Incognito Mode

The best that browsers which offer incognito mode can do is offering a thin layer of privacy for people who work from their private home networks.

Browsing in incognito mode never means that administrators of educational and corporate networks will be blocked from keeping track of your browsing activity. It may not protect you from being spied by someone if you are using a public hotspot in places like a restaurant or café.

Private browsing is concerned with the way the browsing activity data is stored in your personal device and not its transmission across the network.

There are many methods that can be used to locally bypass private browsing. Making use of incognito mode or private browsing will not be of any use to you if your computer is infected with a malware that tracks DNS requests and network traffic. The private or incognito mode is also incapable of beating “fingerprinting” techniques used by third parties to find and understand the distinguishing features of your computer system and track its activity across a network.

Fingerprinting is not given much attention like malware and Trojans despite its accuracy to pinpoint individuals. When you browse the internet, third party websites get to hold relevant information about your computer. These include your time zone, the resolution of your computer, web browser, plugins that you use, the language, and many more.

The information may not have that level of significance individually but when used together, it contributes to building a semi-unique profile of your device.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a service called Panopticlick that shows the uniqueness score of your internet browser. The website reveals the sad truth that our computer configurations are much more unique than we once thought. This makes it very easy for third parties to track us via our computer.

Can Online Privacy Be Considered A Realistic Feature?

The actual meaning of online privacy and whether it is a real feature are relevant topics to be explored.

In simple terms, internet privacy can be defined as the capability to browse and communicate without any third party observing the online things that we do. In the current situation, we have to overcome several barriers to attain internet privacy.

Just think of your ISP, the government, and those who operate your network. The ad tech industry uses sophisticated tracking systems including fingerprinting to launch precision-targeted advertisements.

The VPN is an industry that promises to offer privacy if you invest in their products. However, understand that true privacy is never practicable. The best you can get is something close to it. If you want to get there, you have to be willing to invest money and time and also prepare yourself for a much below par browsing experience.

If you do not want your network admin to observe your online activity, you can use a VPN ensuring that the one you have selected does not keep logs. To be truly safe, you will have to disable JavaScript entirely. There is no denying that many sites will stop working correctly by doing this but the nasty fingerprinting scripts will not work anymore.

These are extreme measures that we do not recommend for many reasons. Internet privacy has never been black-and-white but has a grey shade.