Incognito Mode – Built-In Browser Privacy

Web browsers have Incognito Mode, but most people are not sure what it is or even how to use it. If you want to take advantage of this convenient feature in your browser, read on to learn more about it and how to use it.

Protecting your privacy with Incognito Mode

There are many reasons you may not want someone to know your search history when you browse the Internet. Maybe you're doing some online shopping for an upcoming holiday or special event. Maybe you don't want your login information saved on a public computer. Or maybe you don't want your nosy roommate finding out about that embarrassing medical issue you were researching.

All of these concerns can easily be addressed with a click of the mouse. Incognito Mode lets you browse in private, giving you more security to use the Internet freely.

What is Incognito Mode?

Incognito Mode, also known as "private browsing," is a simple way to keep your Internet searches and browsing activity private. The offer of Incognito Mode is on all of today's major browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge. It doesn't record site data to your browsing history, meaning you won't have to worry about leaving a trail if you're looking up something embarrassing or secret. Until you exit Incognito Mode, your searches aren't recorded to the computer.

Incognito Mode screen

To open a private browsing session, click File, then select "new Incognito window." It will open up a new browser window on your computer. You're now using Incognito Mode!  After you have completed your searches, browsing, reading, or shopping, close the window. Closing the window completely erases your browsing history. You can block third-party cookies this way, too; the page you visit won't give you ads later on if you're in Incognito Mode.

Although the terms "incognito" and "private" sound pretty anonymous, it is important to note the limitations of using this feature. While your searches are completely erased from the computer you are using, that's not to say that they are totally unrecorded searches.  A visit to a website is still saved to that site's server and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can track the information from your IP address.

What does it do?

One of the main features of Incognito Mode is the deletion of your search history. This ensures that whoever uses the computer after you will not be able to see the websites you visited. Whether you are researching a surprise trip for your spouse or using a shared computer to Google your celebrity crush, a private window on Incognito Mode will keep your secrets safe.

Another important aspect of private browsing mode is the removal of any cookies, or files, embedded in websites. While cookies can be useful in saving login information on your most visited sites or keeping all those items you added to your shopping cart several days ago, it is not a function you would want to use on a public computer. Say you want to check your email at the library. You definitely would not want the person after you to have your login information and access to your inbox.

Possibly the most underrated function of Incognito Mode is the lack of targeted advertising. Imagine you search for the new PlayStation gaming console for your child's birthday. If you used a non-Incognito window, you might see gaming web advertisements flooded in your browser for the next few days. It could possibly ruin the surprise once your child opens the browser. Furthermore, targeted ads can be annoying; browsing the web privately protects you from unwanted targeted ads.

What doesn't it do?

While Incognito Mode offers more privacy than regular web browsing, it is by no means 100% private. All of the data stored on the computer during your session gets completely erased after you close the Incognito window. But what about data outside of your computer?

If there is any record of your visit to a website, the site's server saves this information. The network you used to get to the site can access evidence of your search as well. This includes your own personal ISP as well as your employer's WiFi network. Keep that in mind next time you browse Twitter at work. Similarly, consider downloads; any files you download won't necessarily be off the grid.

Another crucial element to consider when using Incognito Mode is that it doesn't protect your computer from malware or spyware. Make sure to run antivirus software, update your system and browser software regularly, and only download files from trusted sources. Note that any downloads or bookmarks using Incognito mode will consequently not be erased.

Does Incognito hide my IP?

No, Incognito Mode does not hide your IP address. Though it's a convenient browsing mode for keeping your search history and Internet habits private, when you open a new Incognito window, your IP address can still be seen by your ISP, the website, and servers. However, there are other ways to hide your IP address if that's something you're interested in. If you're needing a little more online privacy, you might want to try a VPN (virtual private network) or a proxy server, both of which hide your IP address.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to go Incognito mode?

It is safe to go in Incognito mode. In terms of security, Incognito offers no more protection than a typical browsing session, so it doesn't offer security benefits; however, it's also not inherently riskier than browsing online in a standard window.

What's the difference between private and Incognito?

Private browsing and Incognito browsing are essentially the same - a browsing mode that doesn't save your searches or cookies, but without concealing your IP address or your history from your Internet service provider. Browsers refer to this type of browsing differently, which is where the confusion stems from. Google Chrome calls it Incognito mode; Mozilla Firefox calls it Private Browsing; Microsoft Edge calls it InPrivate.

Why do people use Incognito mode?

People use Incognito mode for many reasons. They may use it because they share a device with others and don't want their browser history on that device to be viewable to others. If, for example, a user looks up something personal like medical advice, they may want to keep that under wraps. Someone who wants to avoid cookies would also use Incognito, as this private mode doesn't register cookies that will follow you to other pages and sites.