Google Chrome Incognito mode is a one-click solution for when you want to browse something privately. And indeed, once you close your incognito window, Chrome will forget everything about the session. This includes your browsing history, the given website permissions, the information you entered in forms, cookies, and site data.
All of this helps when you don’t want other users who use the same computer to know where you’ve been. It also helps protect you from some forms of third-party tracking employed by websites.
However, the actual privacy benefits that you get from this mode are limited. Let’s take a closer look at how well Chrome Incognito mode hides you. Spoiler alert: it’s not that much.
How do you go incognito on Chrome?
You can activate incognito mode manually or via a keyboard shortcut. To do it manually:
- Press the three dot icon on the top-right corner of your browser
- Once the new window appears select New incognito window
If you want to use a shortcut instead, press Ctrl + Shift + N – this will instantly open an Incognito window.
Is Google Chrome Incognito safe?
Incognito mode offers a degree of privacy, but it’s not a universal solution. Imagine that you’re robbing a bank with a ski mask but no gloves. Sure, you’re using partial protection required by your line of work, but it’s not going to do much good when your fingerprints are all over the place.
It’s the same with incognito mode, which only stops the browser from saving your browsing activity, cookies, passwords and the like to your local history. That means your IP address is still visible to the visited websites, whoever runs the network you’re using, your internet service provider, and search engines. In short, it doesn’t hurt, but it’s far from the safety standard that you should be aiming for.
Why go incognito while browsing?
You might think, what are the uses of the Google Chrome Incognito mode, then? We’ve established that it doesn’t help that much with privacy, but it still can be useful. Incognito mode is excellent for when you want to prevent something from entering your browsing history or don’t want the browser to remember your log-in credentials. This is particularly useful when you want to log into your accounts, but many people use the same device.
Additionally, you can use multiple incognito window tabs to sign into different accounts. This way, they wouldn’t override each other.
Also, as mentioned, some websites will have less ability to track you due to cookies being cleared on each subsequent visit.
How to browse privately
There are much better privacy solutions that could make your web browsing much safer. Here are some of the examples what you could do instead of relying on Incognito mode:
- Use a VPN to mask your real IP address and encrypt your connection. A VPN will route your connection through an intermediary server, making your activities invisible to your employees, school, and your internet service provider
- If possible, always use the encrypted HTTPS version of a website. Some extensions will force websites to load HTTPS instead of HTTP (HTTPS Everywhere). This makes your private information secure from hackers.
- Uninstall Flash and Java. With Java already out, and Flash set to end its life in 2020, there’s no reason to keep these security holes on your browser.
- If you want to minimize tracking, use ad-blockers like Ghostery or uBlock Origin. They will combat intrusive code that tracks you across websites.
- Consider switching to more privacy-minded search engines like DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t store your personal information and doesn’t track you to serve ads.
Once you turn on the mode, you get a warning that your activity is still visible to websites, your employees or school, and your internet service provider. So yes, you can still be tracked by your IP address, which Google’s Incognito Mode doesn’t mask.
When in Incognito Mode, the browser won’t save site data, cookies, browsing history, or information entered on forms by users. It will still keep files that you download and bookmarks. It works the same way on desktop and mobile.
You can quickly turn off Incognito Mode by closing the tab. The next time when you’ll open a browser, you’ll be browsing as though the session in Incognito Mode didn’t happen.
If you need to turn off Incognito Mode on the mobile app, you’ll need to press Switch tabs on the top right. On the right, you’ll see your open Incognito tabs – close them. This will effectively end your private session.