If you use Google Chrome, you’ve probably used the incognito mode while browsing the web. This runs in a separate tab and does not save your browsing history, which could be beneficial if you are using someone else’s computer or allowing a guest to search for something on your device. However, although the hat and glasses disguise when you open an incognito window might lead you to believe so, you are not entirely unidentifiable.
What is incognito mode?
Incognito mode is a privacy feature on the Chrome browser. When you search the internet, your browser automatically saves a history of your searches. In Incognito mode, your browsing history isn’t stored in your device, or in the Google account you log in with. Your cookies and site data, and also any information you enter in forms such as emails and passwords, are not saved. This is where privacy with Incognito mode ends.
There is debate about whether or not internet browsers should use Chrome or rely solely on it for private browsing. Incognito mode has nothing to hide when you open a new window – stated on the landing page is what is hidden and what is still visible, although Chrome prefaces this with a coy “might”. Your online activity is still visible to the sites you visit, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and your employer or school. A VPN Chrome extension is a superior tool to give you better privacy while browsing along with other benefits.
Moreover, a recent lawsuit made clear that Google knows its incognito mode does not protect users’ privacy in the way that most people believe. Whether you think Google has been transparent enough about how Incognito mode works, it is obvious this private browsing feature is not so private.
Why should I be concerned about browsing privacy?
Many of us may open an incognito and believe that it is good enough to keep our online activity private. This could not be further from the truth, especially when there are several threats to our online safety when browsing the open web. Cybersecurity and ransomware threats are not just a concern of tech giants – cyber attacks can lead to personal injury.
Every time you give your information to an online business, whether you create an online gaming account or log in to your online banking, you are at risk of your personally identifiable information (PII) being part of a data leak. Google has suffered many data breaches over the years, with up to 500,000 accounts’ data compromised in a 2018 leak .
Even when you are casually browsing, your privacy and security are at risk. Malicious hackers are always looking for who they can make their next victim, and those with weak online security are the perfect target. If you are connected to the internet in a public area, such as a cafe or airport, it is very easy for someone to intercept your connection and gain access to your device.
With an easy in, hackers might be able to glean enough information about you to carry out a phishing attack to obtain more sensitive data, such as your banking details and passwords. This could be catastrophic, especially if you are using a work device and company files could be stolen.
How can I browse privately?
Installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client is the best option to browse privately. This works as a Chrome browser extension and secures the endpoints that Incognito mode claims it would not protect.
A VPN sends all your data through an encrypted tunnel, meaning third parties such as your ISP and government entities won’t be able to see your online activity. VPNs also change your location and IP address, making you more difficult to track and identify. Even if you are using public Wi-Fi, your data will be kept private from prying eyes.
Your IP address, like your home address, indicates your location as well as the device through which you access the internet. Since your public IP address is unique and visible to everyone on the internet, it can be used to track you down and prohibit you from accessing content that is restricted to a specific region. You can mask your IP address from internet service providers, hackers, governments, marketers, and others if you want to retain your privacy and prevent restrictions.
More than creating a secure connection, because a VPN can change your location you will be able to access more online content. By changing your IP address, you can bypass geo-restrictions on streaming services and social media platforms that are banned in certain countries.
Relying on Incognito mode for your online privacy will not protect your data from third parties and hackers. Although Incognito mode does not save your search history, cookies, and site data, it does not provide you with true privacy while browsing. While connected to the internet, a Virtual Private Network will encrypt your data and mask your IP address. It’s in the name, after all.