How Does Incognito Mode Work?

Incognito Mode is perhaps one of the most misunderstood features of web browsers. It was initially introduced as a more private way for users to browse the internet. However, the concept and capabilities of this mode have changed over the years.

If you're curious, join us as we explore its journey, how it operates, and the level of privacy it truly offers. Whether you're a daily user or new to the concept, can Incognito Mode defend your digital privacy?

What is Incognito Mode?

Incognito Mode (or Private Browsing or Privacy Mode) is an option you can enable in some web browsers. This enables you to ensure that no history of your visit to a website will be stored on your device.

When browsing the web, many sites will try to leave some trace of themselves on your computer. This is usually done via cookies and helps them remember you and track visits and browsing habits. Incognito mode ensures that all data from the site you visit is removed once the browser window is closed.

Is Incognito Really Private?

Not entirely. There are many more things that contribute to privacy and anonymity than simply removing traces of your visit to a website on your computer. For example, you’re still accessing the site via your ISP, which will have records of your visit.

Applications such as parental controls, antivirus software, and others might also track your activities. If you’re accessing the Internet through a network, there might also be monitoring programs for that network which can see what you’ve been doing.

Sadly, a recent survey has shown that many people mistakenly believe that Incognito Mode is sufficient to mask their identities and activities.

Incognito Mode Can Still Be Useful

Although Incognito mode isn’t great at helping you protect your identity or safe, there are still some ways it can benefit you. Take for example the flight ticket pricing system. Many people believe that airlines adjust flight ticket prices based on your interest in them.

They do this by knowing your browsing history and what activities you’ve done on their site. If you’ve been searching for tickets for your next vacation, the system will know you’re interested and possibly hike up the price of those tickets. Using incognito mode will help prevent this from happening.

Another use for Incognito Mode is to help you get around some paywalls. Certain websites like the New York Times have a limit to how many free articles you can read. Incognito mode can help you work around that since the sites have no way to track that you’ve been on it before.

How to Run Incognito Mode

Not all browsers have a variation of Incognito Mode. Luckily, the one with the largest market share currently does and that’s Google Chrome. To enable Incognito Mode in Chrome;

  1. Launch Chrome.
  2. Click on the three vertical dots on the top right-hand corner of the browser window.
  3. Select “New Incognito Window” and a new browser window will pop up.
Incognito Mode
This is what Incognito Mode looks like in Google Chrome

To ensure that what you’ve done works, you can take note of the “You’ve gone incognito” message in the middle of the new window that opened. Any site that you visit using this browser windows will be in Incognito mode.

Incognito mode or a variation of it can also be enabled on many other popular browsers such as Firefox, Opera, and Safari. To stop browsing in Incognito Mode, simple close that browser Window.

VPN vs Incognito Mode

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a much better alternative to staying safe and keeping your activities private on the Internet. They are designed with that purpose in mind, so not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will know what you’re doing online.

There are two main things that they do to achieve this. The first is to route all your web traffic through their own secure servers. This is kept private, so no logs of your activities are ever kept by most good VPN service providers.

The second part of what a VPN does is to encrypt your information. VPNs make use of high levels of encryption so that even if your web traffic is somehow intercepted, the data will be useless to anyone else due to the encryption.

There are many things other than this that are part of what VPNs do. Read our Comprehensive VPN Guide to learn more about them and what you can achieve with a VPN service.

In a nutshell, they can;

  • Help you stay anonymous
  • Mask your Internet activities
  • Keep you safe on public WiFi
  • Bypass geo-location blocking

And more!

How Much Does a VPN Cost?

The VPN market is highly saturated and there are many good VPN service providers around. You can sign on with a top-quality VPN service provider for as little as $50 to $100 for a two- or three-year plan. They also often have great discounts for new users.

We review lots of VPN services and have compiled a list of all the Best VPN Deals which we update monthly. Sign on with one of them today to browse the Internet with complete peace of mind.

Conclusion: Incognito Mode is Useful but Not That Safe

As you can see by now, Incognito still does have its highlights and can be useful and some limited circumstances. How many uses you can truly discover for them is up to you. Just remember that the features they offer are very limited.

Ideally, always browse the Internet using a VPN connection. This goes doubly true if you’re using a public network like the WiFi at your local Coffee Bean or Starbucks.

Timothy Shim

Tim is a former tech journalist turned web technology junkie. He spends his time exploring the best in digital privacy and security tools. Meanwhile, experiments with SEO continue to increase his blood pressure. ( Contact Tim on Linkedin )

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