Myth Busted: Is Incognito Mode Really More Secure?

November 17th · 2 min read

Put simply: No.

Most browsers offer some form of private browsing. Chrome calls this feature Incognito Mode. Internet Explorer and Edge call it InPrivate Browsing mode. Firefox and Opera call the feature Private Browsing mode and Safari offers a “Private window”.

With terms like private browsing, private window, and private tab, you’d expect them to be, well...private and thus more secure, wouldn’t you? The reality is that these private modes are no more secure than browsing like normal.

What does private browsing mode actually do?

In short, Private Browsing is intended to keep your internet activity hidden from others who use the same computer. It erases the temporary data held by your computer, including: When you close your private browsing session, your browsing history is deleted. This means that you can’t go back and see what websites you visited, but neither can anyone else. This can save you from some potentially embarrassing moments. More importantly, it can stop malware and spyware that may have infected your device from seeing that information as well. That said, the same malware and spyware may have already gathered information about the sites at the time you visited them so this alone shouldn’t be used as a means of security.

It erases your search data. Like your browsing history, erasing your search data can save you from some potentially embarrassing moments, but it doesn’t play a role in your security online as a whole.

It clears your cookies. Cookies are information saved on your web browser. They collect information about pages you view, website activities, allow for targeted advertisements, and allow websites to recognize when you’ve visited before. If you’ve ever visited a website and found that you were already logged in, this convenience comes from cookies.

What private browsing doesn’t do.

Many people choose to use private browsing or Incognito mode as a means of adding privacy or security to their browsing experience, but this is ineffective.

It doesn’t block others from seeing your activity. While information may not be stored directly on your computer, your activities are still known to the website you’re visiting, your Internet Service Provider and the organization providing your internet connection, like a workplace, school, or cafe. Your government can also request information about your activities online if needed.

It doesn’t prevent websites from collecting your data. When you log into an account, even while using private browsing, the websites can still collect data about your activities. For example, if you log into Amazon, a record of your activities while on Amazon will be saved to their servers. The same applies to Twitter, Facebook, your email provider, and any other website requiring that you sign in.

It doesn’t protect you from online threats. Malware, viruses, scams, and other online threats are everywhere online. Using private browsing doesn’t include protection from these threats. The same threats can be downloaded to your computer. The best way to protect from these threats is to block them at the browser level by using a browser protection tool, like Guardio.

In short: Incognito mode is a great way to hide information from other users of your computer, but if you’re looking for true privacy or true security, you aren’t going to achieve that using Incognito mode.

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