📖 4 mins read

Think you’re safe when you go incognito? Nah, think again.

Private web browsing; an idea that is much loved and favoured by most of us. That’s understandable of course, given how incredibly handy it is for many different reasons. 

Say you’re cooking up a special surprise for your family, you’d want to hide your tracks. An employee looking for a new job certainly doesn’t want his employer to know. Similarly, you’d never want your partner to know how long you stayed up gaming or online shopping last night. But does incognito really help you in all of these scenarios? Let’s find out.

Web surfing

Private browsingPrivate browsing or in this case ‘incognito mode’ is one of the most misconceived Google Chrome features out there. Most people think it casts a vanishing spell on their activity, data and identity. While in fact it is as simple as sweeping those bread crumbs under the rug; anyone can find them, it just depends on where they look.

Fun experiment, ask a few random people today how they protect their data when searching the internet? I bet you at least one third of those people will recommend private browsing.

An interesting survey of 460 people conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and Germany’s Leibniz Universität Hannover in 2018 revealed that 73% of participants don’t understand what private browsing really does and what data it protects.

Ironically, the survey also found that although browsers explicitly warn users that all their data won’t be hidden when using private browsing mode, people still have staggering misconceptions about what will be hidden. That’s simply because people always refer to their broader conceptualisation of privacy.

 

In this blog post, we will be doing some myth busting around the most common misconceptions here, helping you achieve a clearer understanding of what Chrome’s incognito mode REALLY does and how to protect yourself better.

Going incognito

Google warning users about privacy in incognito

So what does Chrome’s Incognito Mode really do then?

Before diving in, let’s start by explaining how incognito mode works.

When you go incognito, think of privacy in terms of what can be accessed on your device ONLY. Incognito casts a shield ‘FOR’ rather than ‘ON’ your device. Yes, that’s literally as far as that seemingly magical blanket stretches.

 

So when you start a browsing session in incognito mode, it only prevents things like browsing history, cookies, passwords or temporary files from being locally stored on your own device after the session ends. That has nothing to do with the servers, websites, domains, etc. you’re accessing.

That said, now let’s bust those dangerous incognito myths out there 🤜:

 

Incognito Myth 11. When logged into a user account, search queries won’t be saved in incognito mode. 

Fact: That’s exactly like clearing the call log history off your cell phone thinking your mobile network provider won’t be able to see the calls you made now. It’s just completely untrue! Google still saves your search queries in incognito and they will still be associated with your IP address.

Additionally, logging into your Google account in incognito mode is the same as logging into your Google account in standard mode. Google will still record your search history and the rest of your interactions with its services (like the YouTube videos you watch, etc.).

 

Incognito Myth 2

2Internet service providers (ISPs), the government and employers won’t be able to track you in incognito mode.

Fact: That of course is complete nonsense. 

When you want to visit a website, you type a domain name into your browser, and your device, using your public IP address, sends a request to a server that hosts the website you want to view. This request goes through a number of other servers, switches, and hubs.

Here, your request is handled by many different parties who can easily view it. Incognito mode can’t do anything about it. As a result, your ISP can learn what you’ve been looking at despite going incognito.

If your ISP can see your activity, the government can easily track you as well. If you’re logged into your company or school’s Wi-Fi, your employer or school can still view your browsing activity. Also, if you’re on a site that isn’t secure, incognito mode won’t keep other users on your network from tracking you, either.

Alternative :Integrating a virtual private network (VPN) with incognito mode may help anonymize your browsing, however your ISP will still be able to tell when you connect and disconnect. Also, the VPN company may log some information on your activity.

 

Incognito Myth 33. Incognito offers more protection against viruses and malware.

Fact: People think incognito protects them from viruses and malware. Flash news; not true. Malware can still harm you regardless of your browsing mode. For example, if you download an attachment from a phishing email while you’re in incognito mode, that virus can still install itself on your computer.

Alternative: To protect yourself against viruses and malware, you first need to be vigilant when surfing Google or using Gmail. Never click on anything unless you know what it is. Secondly, you need an antivirus software to protect you in case you actually get attacked, and don’t forget to run regular scans. 

 

Incognito Myth 4

4. Websites visited in incognito mode won’t be able to view your IP address.

Fact: That’s 100% not true. Try this simple experiment out yourself, visit Find my IP Address in standard mode then again in incognito mode. There you go, your detailed IP address tracked in both cases.

 

 

 

Incognito Myth 5

5. Incognito mode prevents websites from estimating your geolocation

Fact: That’s pretty consistent with the previous misconceptions and again, completely untrue. Just like websites can access your IP address, they can easily view your geolocation. You can also check that yourself here

1. Google Chrome: By default, Chrome asks your permission before sending geolocation data to websites. However, you (or maybe a family member) may have possibly changed your browser’s settings to enable geolocation by default. It is also common for malware to change browser geolocation settings.

👉Here is how to disable geolocation in Google Chrome:

Click on Chrome’s menu → head to Settings. 

Click the “Show advanced settings” link at the bottom of the Settings page. 3. Click the “Content Settings” button under Privacy.

Scroll down to the “Location” section → select “Do not allow any site to track your physical location”.

2. Incognito Google Maps: Earlier this year Google introduced a new incognito mode for maps. This new feature prevents data generated by your device from showing up in your Google Location History. If you’re sharing your location with someone through Google Maps, it pauses updates about that device’s location when active.
However, similar to Chrome’s incognito mode, you could still be tracked by ISPs, other apps, or if you’re using Assistant and other Google services.

Well, that’s it for now! We have successfully busted our first five common myths. Now let’s go ahead and bust our remaining 5 Incognito Myths here.