What is Incognito Mode and can you trust it?
Much like it sounds, Incognito Mode is a popular setting that allows you to go undercover when browsing the net. The feature instantly stops the browser from tracking your search history, login details, and other activities. But as private as it sounds, Incognito Mode isn’t infallible and has its limitations you should be aware of. Let’s break everything down.
What is Incognito Mode?
The word Incognito itself stands for hiding one’s true identity. While speaking of the Incognito Mode, the definition is nearly identical. Also known as Privacy Mode, or simply private browsing, Incognito is a feature of today’s major web browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer or Edge. Incognito Mode deletes the history of any websites you visit, saves no information you enter, and removes all cookies you gather along the way. In shorter terms, it removes any local data and gets rid of everything you collect during a single browsing session.
How does Incognito Mode work?
When you browse the net in a regular, non-incognito window, your browser saves the web addresses of sites you visit, the information you put in autocomplete fields, and cookies you automatically download. This way, your browser can retrace your steps and find the same websites quicker in the future. But as convenient as it sounds, there is a dark side of it - your browser keeps tabs on every move you make.
However, when you enable Incognito Mode, your browser has no choice but to forget all data collection, auto-fills, and trackers. At the end of each web session, Incognito Mode deletes all the cookies and keeps your browsing history empty.
Deleting cookies is, no doubt, a great first step toward maintaining your privacy online. Cookies - tiny pieces of information saved on your web browser - have several uses, such as:
- They gather information about the websites you visit and your activities on them.
- They allow sites to recognize you, as a visitor, by storing your ID and browsing preferences.
- They send you targeted advertisements and adjust your browsing experience accordingly.
However, don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. There are some fundamental drawbacks of Incognito Mode if you’re a privacy-conscious netizen.
Is Incognito Mode enough for privacy online?
The short answer is no - 100% anonymity is not possible by only using Incognito Mode. Its security narrows to keeping your browsing habits private from other users who may pick up your device. But Incognito still leaves your online travels open to many different types of monitoring. After all, your IP address remains visible, meaning that your ISP, government, or any nefarious third-party can still track your activities.
With these drawbacks in mind, you may wonder if you ever need to use Incognito Mode. But even if you’re not wholly protected, this feature does the job of preventing your browser from saving information about your browsing session.
How to enable Incognito Mode
To enable Incognito on your browser on PC, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:
- Chrome: ‘Ctrl + Shift + N’ on Windows, or ‘Cmd + Shift + N’ on macOS
- Firefox: ‘Ctrl + Shift + P’ on Windows, or ‘Cmd + Shift + P’ on macOS
- Safari: ‘Cmd + Shift + N’
- Internet Explorer: ‘Ctrl + Shift + P’
- Edge: ‘Ctrl + Shift + N’
On mobile devices, you should refer to your browser’s Menu/Settings tab, and activate Incognito Mode from there.
How to make your browsing really private
Activating Incognito Mode is definitely a step towards more private browsing. But as handy as it is, the feature alone is not enough for you to achieve completely anonymous and secure browsing. Luckily, there’s another way to ensure you leave zero traces from the moment you start browsing.
A Virtual Private Network replaces your IP address, which means that nothing you do online can be traced back to you. A VPN encrypts your traffic, making it nothing but gibberish, unreadable code. That means none of the snoopy third-parties will be able to access, read, or steal your information. Hence, if you combine the two - Incognito Mode and VPN - you can firmly say that you leave no traces behind your browsing session.
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Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.