Turning on your browser’s incognito mode is nowhere near as safe or secure as people think. At least according to a new study.
The latest study out of the University of Chicago as well as Leibniz University of Hanover revealed that of the 450 participants interviewed, the majority believed that incognito mode had some sort of privacy feature built in – a feature that effectively made online activities untraceable. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For those unfamiliar with Private Browsing or Incognito Mode, it is simply a browsing option that you can find in the ‘Tabs’ section of your browser. There is typically a detective symbol or darker colour used to let users know that their browsing is now ‘private.’
Where the issues begin is with a users’ lack of understanding. Google’s Chrome browser states that their incognito mode simply won’t save your browsing history, site data or cookies to your device. There is no framework in place that stops snooping, hacking or anything else. If a website, like Facebook, has other tracking protocols in place that go beyond cookies then you’re certainly still being tracked online.
Incognito users also believe that switching on the option will prevent their school or employer from seeing their activities online – again, incorrect.
Results from the Report:
- “46.5% of participants ‘believed bookmarks saved in private mode would not persist in later sessions,’ when they actually do.”
- “40.2% of participants thought websites would not be able to estimate a user’s location,” while in private mode. You can make it harder to estimate your location if you use a VPN.”
- “27.1% of participants believed private mode offered more protection against viruses and malware than standard [mode.]” This is a misconception since any files you download and open on your computer could still be infected with malware or viruses.”
- “22.0%, 37.0%, and 22.6% of participants mistakenly believed that ISPs, employers, and the government would be unable to track them when they used private mode.” If you’re on someone’s network, chances are they can see what you’re doing.”
Another major misconception was that 56.3% of users believed that incognito mode would block Google from seeing your history. This is also false as Google will still be logging all search queries and saving these.
The bottom line is effectively this; both Private Browsing and Incognito Mode provide no real security. Their only features are simply not caching your activity on your device and not saving your history. No matter how you look at it, there is literally no security added at all.
Privacy with a VPN
Since using incognito within your browser provides little to no actual security, the only true way to block all access to your browsing activities is with a VPN.
A VPN won’t simply stop your browser saving your history, but it will tunnel all of your web activities through a totally different encrypted server. This way everything you do online cannot be tracked or traced back to your device.
The top 3 VPN service providers including NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Buffered all boast some of the most powerful security frameworks available. These are the true ‘incognito’ services to browse through. You’ll find that the level of security on these services is akin to what military departments use, as well as government agencies. You can rest assured that browsing through a VPN is certainly your best bet at staying entirely anonymous online.