As of January 2021, 45% of the Indian population use the internet. The number of users increased by 47 million between 2020 and 2021, with the total number standing at 624 million.1 This not only means that more people are connected to the global online world but also that they could be releasing their personal data to anonymous users constantly through browsing and other activities.
For example, in 2019, more than 12,000 online identity theft cases were reported all around India, mainly caused by unsafe browsing and information vulnerability.2
Web-browsing creates exposure. You can see a lot of information from others, but they can also collect certain pieces of data about you merely from your browsing activity. Hackers can sell the gathered information to advertisers who create buyer profiles and personalized ads.
That’s where incognito mode — or private mode — comes in.
What is incognito mode?
Incognito mode is private browsing that doesn’t leave as many tracks. It can erase temporary data captured by the PC or device you’re using.
While all privacy modes aren’t the same, most private browser settings won’t retain your cookies, browsing history, search records, passwords, or personally identifiable information (PII).
Deleting cookies — information saved on your web browser — is a significant first step toward maintaining your privacy.
Cookies have several uses, including these.
- They collect information about the pages you view and your website activities.
- They enable sites to recognize you by remembering your ID and preferences.
- They customize your browsing experience and send you targeted ads.
But does activating incognito mode and being able to delete temporary data like cookies protect your privacy? Not as much as you might hope.
Here’s why. Your search history may be erased from your own device, but your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the websites you’ve visited, or other third parties can still track you with your IP address.
Still, there are benefits to surfing the web in incognito mode. To decide if private browsing is suitable for you, consider what it can and cannot do for you now that you’re familiar with the Incognito mode working process.
What browsers have incognito mode?
Four of the most recognizable web browsers have standard private browsing (incognito) features. Here’s a brief look at each of them.
Google Chrome’s “Incognito Mode” was designed to make sharing computers easier in places like the office where one device could have multiple users. With Incognito Mode enabled, the Chrome browser won’t save the browsing history, cookies, site data, or information entered on forms by users. But it will keep files you download and bookmarks. The same happens when using Chrome’s Incognito Mode to open a new Android phone window.
Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge
Once enabled, Microsoft’s “InPrivate” browsing window provides similar protections as other browsers. However, even after you close the InPrivate window, Microsoft will save files you download along with bookmarks saved on your computer. The browser’s incognito mode also will disable toolbars and extensions.
Mozilla’s “Private Browsing” mode is similar to other incognito modes but offers additional tracking protection. This helps stop third parties from gathering your browsing history. You can activate this tracking in your private window, marked with a purple band across it.
Safari’s “Private” window similarly removes temporary files such as browsing history, form data, and cookies when you close the incognito window. It also deletes temporary files. When private browsing is activated in a new incognito window, the location bar will be greyed-out, and a band at the top of the window will show you’re in private browsing mode.
How do you turn incognito mode on?
Turning incognito mode on is not an arduous task. To activate it, open your browser, select “file,” and then select the new private/incognito window. When you’re done, close the window.
There also are keyboard shortcuts for the four major browsers. Here’s how they work.
- Chrome: Press Control + Shift + N in Windows and Command + Shift + N for Mac.
- Firefox: Press Control + Shift + N.
- Internet Explorer: Press Control + Shift + P.
- Safari: Press Control symbol + Shift + N.
You’ll know you’re in private browsing mode when you see the “man-in-a-hat” icon in the upper-left corner in Windows and the upper-right corner for Mac.
Pros of incognito mode
While incognito mode doesn’t give you total privacy, but there are several good reasons to go incognito while browsing online.
Cookies may help fill in your login credentials, but they can also record your sensitive personal information. And you don’t want your PII falling into the hands of cybercriminals or identity thieves.
Browsers delete these cookies when you log out of incognito mode, which also solves the problem of storing multiple users’ cookies. It might be confusing and annoying if information relevant to another user keeps popping up while you’re online.
Keeps browsing history empty and private on your device
Incognito mode makes it easier to use shared computers in places like offices and libraries. Why? When you log out of incognito mode, your temporary browsing data — browsing history, search records, passwords — is erased. That means the following user of that computer can’t access this information.
Prevents third parties from collecting your data
Booking travel accommodations? A private browser may be able to help you find cheaper airfares or hotel bookings by disabling web-tracking. This means websites will have trouble following you, and in some cases, will not be able to see your location.
Allows for multiple accounts
You can log into the same site from different accounts. This would be handy if, for instance, you and your friend both want to check your individual Facebook accounts on the same computer.
Help troubleshoot problem extensions
If something isn’t working, you may be able to figure out the source of the problem by activating private browsing, which can disable extensions and toolbars.
Cons of incognito mode
Here are some disadvantages of incognito mode.
Doesn’t block your IP address from tracking data, only the specific device
Incognito mode can erase data stored on your PC or device, but it can’t prevent your ISP from collecting data transmitted beyond your computer. Similarly, routers, firewalls, and proxy servers can still track your browsing activities.
Websites visited can still collect data
When you log into your account on a website, even if you’re in incognito mode, that website can still collect data related to your activities.
For instance, if you log into your Twitter or Myntra accounts while in incognito mode, you won’t remain anonymous. Similarly, if you use a Google app, Chrome will still record your cookies and browsing history.
Consider using a VPN
If you want more privacy, activating private browsing is a start. But you won’t retain complete anonymity or data security. In that case, a virtual private network (VPN) can help you create a private network that is secure and encrypted from a public Internet connection.3
Norton Secure VPN helps ensure protection for your online exploits by helping to keep your passwords, bank details, and credit card information secured when using public Wi-Fi or surfing through a browser.