Incognito mode is the browsing method used by many users who want to prevent their web activity from being monitored. But is it really that safe? While incognito mode can keep your search history flawless, there are certain restrictions to be aware of. Depending on the level of protection you want, you may need to resort to other resources.
Also, there are many misconceptions about incognito mode and what it can and cannot do. In this article, we’ll explore the limits of private browsing and look at some possible alternatives to the feature. Read on to learn more about data protection and web tracking.
Is Incognito Mode Really All I Need?
Going incognito is a great way to protect your privacy if you share a computer with other users. After all, there is no reason why your coworkers should have an idea of your local search history.
These are some of the main benefits of private browsing:
- No more cookies. Cookies are used by most websites for data collection, and although it is usually harmless, it can be invasive. Also, not everyone is comfortable with their data being used for ad targeting or any type of tracking. If you want to browse without collecting cookies, then incognito mode is the way to go.
- No visible browsing history. Of course, the main reason most people browse incognito is to hide their search history. When you enable the feature, the browser will stop tracking your activity. The feature is very convenient if you want to use your work computer for private purposes, such as online shopping or streaming music (if allowed).
- Multiple accounts are allowed. Without incognito mode, you will have to constantly switch between different accounts if there is more than one user. However, once it becomes private, the browser will not save the login information, so it will not be necessary.
However, outside of these areas, there isn’t much that Incognito mode can do. For example, private browsing cannot do the following:
- Hide your IP address. This is the misconception we mentioned earlier. Some people think that going private will prevent your server location from being tracked, but that is not the case. Although your device will not be able to access the information, it will still be visible to the service provider. Not only can your IP address be detected, but it can also be collected and sold to a third-party website.
- Protect site data. While incognito mode can collect cookies, that’s about it when it comes to data protection. Even when you are browsing privately, websites can still collect your personal information.
So is there another way to protect your digital privacy? Of course. Here are two more advanced alternatives that you can try for optimal protection:
- Connect to a VPN. Virtual private networks or VPNs are highly secure encryption tools that limit web tracking and other invasive data collection methods. Once you sign up for the service, you will be able to hide your IP address and other personal information from third party websites. There is a wide range of VPNs on the market and there are even some free versions available.
- Use Tor. The software comes with an encrypted browser intended to prevent Internet service providers from tracking your data. It’s completely free and works even better when paired with a solid VPN.
How to browse privately
There are several ways to browse the Internet in private. Most browsers and web devices have several options to protect your online activity. In this section, we will discuss those methods in detail.
Use a VPN
Before we dive into private browsing on your device, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways to protect your internet activities is to use a VPN. A VPN is a virtual private network, a software tool that works on most devices and with all websites, regardless of the browser you are using. Although there are many VPNs, we use ExpressVPN most of the time because it is reliable, functional, and easy to use.
If you have a VPN, you can browse in peace without worrying about your behavior being tracked by your ISP, marketers, and others. If you have a VPN, do this to browse privately:
- Open the ExpressVPN application on your device.
- Select a city or country (remember, the further you select the location, the more delay you may experience).
- Tap the Power icon to activate your VPN and wait for it to say ‘Connected’.
Using this method is really simple and you won’t have a problem as long as your VPN is on. If you haven’t gotten a VPN yet, we have a few more options to help you browse privately.
Use the native functions of your device
As you can see, several advantages come with incognito mode, one of which is that it is very easy to enable. For this article, we will use the Google Chrome and Safari browsers, but the steps can be applied to the most popular search engines.
In addition, we include separate instructions for different devices, as the method may vary slightly depending on the model and brand.
As mentioned, we are using Google Chrome for reference. So without further ado, here is how to enable incognito mode with a PC:
- Launch the Chrome browser by clicking on the desktop icon.
- Navigate to the upper right corner of the screen and click on the three vertical dots. Then choose “New Incognito Window” from the drop-down list.
- You will be redirected to a new window. Check to see if the incognito icon (a “spy” figure consisting of a hat and dark glasses) is displayed. If so, start browsing.
A faster way to do this is to use a keyboard shortcut. For Windows and Linux users, hold down the “Ctrl + Shift + N” key to open a new private window.
Mac users can enable incognito mode with the Safari browser just as easily. That’s how:
- Open Safari and click on the “File” tab in the top menu bar.
- Select “New Private Window” from the drop-down list.
- For a faster version, use the shortcut “Shift + Command + N”.
Once you’re done, you’ll see a notification at the top of the window confirming that private browsing has been enabled.
You can also configure Safari to automatically open a private window every time you browse. That’s how:
- Launch the Safari browser application and click on the “Safari” tab in the top menu bar.
- In the drop-down panel, choose “Preferences.” You can also use the “Command +” keyboard shortcut.
- Open the “General” tab and expand the “Safari opens with” menu.
- Check the “New Private Window” option in the drop-down panel.
There is no reason why you cannot browse incognito with your phone. Here’s how to enable the feature with an Android device:
- Touch the Chrome icon to open the browser application.
- In the upper right corner of the screen, tap the three vertical dots. Then select “New Incognito Tab” from the drop down panel.
- You will be redirected to a new window. If you see the incognito mode icon in the upper left corner, you can continue browsing.
Please note that you will not be able to take screenshots with incognito mode enabled.
Finally, iPhone users can activate incognito mode with the following steps:
- First, launch the Safari application from your home screen or Applications folder.
- In the lower right corner, tap the “New page” button.
- At the bottom of the screen, choose “Private”, then tap the “+” icon.
- Press “Done” to start browsing.
One way to know that you have successfully enabled the feature is if the window appears darker than usual.
Going under the radar
Incognito mode can be useful when you are using a public computer and you need to look up some personal data. It will keep your online activity hidden from other users, ensuring that your local search history remains intact. Plus, it’s a solid line of defense against those pesky cookies.
However, if you are seriously concerned about web tracking and data collection, you are better off looking for alternative solutions. Private networks and encrypted browsers are more reliable options when it comes to data security.
How often do you use incognito mode? What do you think about cookies and other forms of data collection? Comment below and tell us your preferred method of navigation.