Think That Incognito Browser Is Really Private? We’ve Got Bad News

Incognito mode has been a blessing to everyone beyond their pubescence for many years. 

It is, however, not the miracle that we would all prefer that it be. Remember, when you open it up, the first thing it does is warn you: 

Handy to keep certain things from becoming accidental and difficult-to-explain autocorrect suggestions, sure. But take a look next to all that, and you’ll notice that it warns you that there is indeed a record of your visit being created with your internet service provider, network admin (like a school or employer) and the websites you’re visiting. According to IFL Science, 

None of the private modes offered by the major browsers can protect your online history from being viewed by Internet service providers or government agencies, block third-party groups from tracking your activity or determining your geographical location, nor prevent viruses and malware from infecting your computer. Instead, the modes are designed to simply stop cookies and autofill details from being saved on the user’s local device.

Yeah, so while it may be good to hide certain things from folks who use that same computer, it’s not exactly an invisibility cloak when it comes to your ISP or a government agency. 

This is especially worth noting since net neutrality rules were overturned this week by the FCC, and although 21 states, the District of Columbia, and some of the largest tech companies in the world are suing reinstate the rules, until further notice your personal browsing information and the speed at which you access the internet is subject to your ISP. 

We have known about the limitations of private browsing for a while, but the real problem is that few of the major browsers explain this well enough. A recent study demonstrated that 56% of users that read one of the major browsing programs (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge Opera and Brave) mistakenly overestimated the level of privacy they were afforded. 

It should be said that Firefox is the worst offender with a coy, “browse like no one’s watching”. Not super strong advice, in that only your mom isn’t watching.

For more security, it’s worth looking into VPNs – Virtual Private Networks – which basically forward all your internet connectivity through another computer somewhere in the world. It’s a little slower and a little more expensive, but it’s also a way to truly have (more) private browsing at a time when data breach scandals are on all our minds.

H/T: IFL Science