Does Incognito mode hide your IP address? | No, here's why

With more people becoming aware of what their data is used for, it’s understandable that people want to hide it from the sites they visit. Usually, they turn to Incognito mode. But does Incognito mode hide your IP address? The answer is a simple (yet resounding) no. Incognito mode is not as sophisticated as you’d think. 

Table of contents

    What is Incognito mode and what does it hide?

    It’s simple: Incognito mode hides your browsing activity on your local network. This means that someone else using your device will not see what you searched for. However, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), advertisers, and even the websites you visit will still see what you searched for. 

    So why use it then? Because Incognito mode is still a private browsing tool that opens a new session for you on Chrome. As it gives you a fresh instance on the browser it was launched on, any previous data or information that had been stored, known as cookies, is not applied. Many people believe this to be much more secure than regular browsing. However, Incognito mode is not all it’s cracked up to be. 

    Why does Incognito mode exist? 

    As you may know, Google Chrome (and most web browsers out there) keep a record of your search history. By storing it, browsers allow you to find and revisit any content you previously came across. Convenient? Sure. But it comes at the cost of your privacy.

    Incognito mode prevents you from being tracked with previously-stored cookies and stops any new cookies that try to load on your browsing session. Every time you exit an Incognito session, it deletes any cookies that may have been acquired during a private browsing session.

    This mode is mainly used to stop any browsing history from storing on your device. ‘Cause any data that travels over a local network and leaves your computer can still be tracked. The local network administrator and even your ISP can still follow the internet traffic. If you don’t want to be tracked at all a better choice for you would be a private search engine

    Private browsing

    Private browsing modes do give you a small layer of extra protection, but they don’t make your information 100% private. With Chrome’s Incognito mode, the websites you visit can still view your IP address, and the same is true for most browsers.

    The difference between these modes on most browsers is minute, including their names:

    • Chrome: Incognito Mode;
    • Microsoft Edge: InPrivate Mode;
    • Safari: Private Browsing;
    • Mozilla Firefox: Private Mode;
    • Internet Explorer: InPrivate Mode.

    Shrouded in misconceptions, private browsing might not be what you think it is. So, let’s clear things up:

    Incognito mode hides your IP.
    False
    Incognito mode clears your cookies.
    True
    Incognito mode offers more protection against viruses and malware.
    False
    Incognito mode prevents websites from estimating your geolocation.
    False
    Incognito mode prevents websites from estimating your geolocation.
    False
    Ads won’t be able to track the site data in Incognito mode.
    False
    A private browser prevents Google from monitoring internet traffic.
    False
    SSNs, passwords, credit card details, and personal info are safe in Incognito mode.
    False
    Bookmarks saved when using Incognito mode would not show up under standard mode.
    False

    What is an IP address?

    An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a numerical sequence (e.g., 192.0.2.1) connected to a computer network used for communication. It serves two major functions: location addressing and network interface identification. Every electronic device that is connected to the internet has an IP address allocated to them. Every IP address is unique to the device that it is appointed to.  

    Why do you need to hide your IP address?

    Why do you need to hide your IP address?

    With IP addresses being the gateway to anything you do online, they can be dangerous in the hands of hackers. Suppose they manage to gain access to your IP address. In that case, they can break your digital privacy. Here are a few things that could do:

    Ban you from accessing certain websites

    If someone manages to gain access to your IP, they can easily ban you from websites or even playing games online. 

    Restrict your geolocation

    Have you ever noticed that specific videos are sometimes unavailable in your location? This is because many websites restrict their content based on your location. All they need to do is read the geolocation stored away in your IP to block you. 

    Send you personalized ads

    Remember that ad you received based on something you looked up maybe a week or a month ago? That’s targeted advertising. It means advertisers have begun embedding tracking programs onto online articles that you read. Using these programs, they can record your IP address and show you targeted ads based on what you have searched. 

    Track your online activity

    Employers can use your IP address to gain access to your activity online, allowing them to monitor what you do during work hours, including what sites you visit.

    Discover personal information about you 

    Malicious actors are always looking for new ways to get their hands on your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) to impersonate you. Things like your Social Security number, mailing address, birth date, and phone number can all be found online if they have access to your IP. With this information, hackers can steal your identity or financial information and sell it on the dark web.

    Frame you for crimes

    Skilled hackers can route their web traffic through your address by using your IP. From there, they can frame you for something you had no knowledge of.

    Hit you with a DDoS attack

    If a hacker has managed to get their hands on your IP address, they can launch a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack against you. This is done by hackers using an army of computers to flood your device with traffic until it is forced to disconnect from the internet and shut down.

    Local vs. online anonymity

    Local vs. online anonymity

    There is a huge difference between local and online anonymity, and it’s important to distinguish between the two. Local anonymity refers to your online history, cookies, preferences, and other data that is stored on your local device.

    Online anonymity is your information that is tracked by websites, government agencies, cookies, search engines, hackers, ISPs, browser extensions, and more.

    Incognito mode only offers local anonymity; it will stop your browser history from being stored by the operating system. However, it will not protect your online anonymity since cookies, ISP, search engines, and others can still access all your information.

    How can you hide your IP address?

    There are multiple ways you can hide your IP address. The three most popular are:

    1. The Tor Browser

    The browser itself is a free program that can be downloaded to your computer, where it will conceal your IP address every time you go online. It will safeguard your data using high-end encryption, giving you a layer of security and privacy protection. It may take a bit to get used to Tor but we have a great beginner-friendly guide on how to use Tor to help you.

    1. Proxy servers

    A proxy server acts as a middleman, allowing you to disguise your actual IP address with the proxy’s whenever you go online. However, most proxies do not encrypt your data. So, if a skilled hacker or government agency were to look close enough, they would see your information and be able to track your online activities. Another downfall of using proxies is that they’re slow.

    1. VPN services

    VPNs, or virtual private networks, work similarly to proxy servers in that they are a middleman between your device and your final web server. But, unlike a proxy, a VPN connection will completely encrypt your IP, making you anonymous on the internet. Your entire browsing history will be hidden in a string of meaningless characters, making it impossible to track your activity.

    Surfshark Search vs. Incognito mode

    Incognito mode will keep any new browsing details, cookies, and history from being captured by your operating system. But, again, it will not conceal your IP address, still allowing hackers and ISPs to access your information.

    Surfshark Search, on the other hand, provides a private and safe space to browse the internet. We offer a strict no-logs policy, meaning that we cannot see beyond your email address and payment details. So, we cannot and do not track your data and what you use our services for.

    Surfshark Search
    Incognito mode
    Hides search history
    Collects your IP
    Avoids all ads
    Ensures organic search results

    The takeaway: Does Incognito hide your IP address? 

    Quite simply, the answer is no. While Incognito mode might prove a useful tool at times, it does very little to protect you from malicious actors.  

    Hackers will still be able to access your information and use it against you. Personalized ads will still be created based on your browsing history, even if you’re using Incognito mode. To protect yourself online, the best tools are still the Tor Browser, proxies, and VPN servers. But only with Surfshark Search will you be able to make sure your private information remains private. 

    Enjoy real private browsing

    Get Surfshark Search

    FAQ

    Is Google Chrome’s Incognito mode the same as a VPN server?

    No. All VPNs and Incognito mode have in common is that they can hide your browsing history. Apart from that, Incognito mode is highly limited in protecting your online information and only really helps to conceal local data on your computer. Meanwhile, VPNs keep you completely anonymous online, with no one being able to access your information, not even the VPN you use.

    How can you browse anonymously?

    Incognito mode does not offer enough privacy to protect sensitive data on public networks. If you want to stay completely safe and protected from hackers, your browsing habits should include at least one of these extra protection layers:

    • VPN;
    • Tor;
    • Anonymous search engines (like Surfshark Search).

    In addition, you should avoid creating bookmarks, and if you want to stay anonymous online, you shouldn’t log onto any websites.

    How do I access Incognito mode?

    While it is seldom useful, if you want to use Incognito mode anyway, it’s as simple as using a few keyboard shortcuts:

    BROWSER
    MOUSE
    KEYBOARD
    Google Chrome
    Settings & New Incognito Window
    Ctrl + Shift + N
    Internet Explorer
    Settings & New InPrivate Window
    Ctrl + Shift + P
    Edge
    Settings & New InPrivate Window
    Ctrl + Shift + P
    Firefox
    Settings & New Private Window
    Ctrl + Shift + P
    Brave
    Settings & New Incognito Window
    Ctrl + Shift + N
    Safari
    Settings & Private mode
    Shift + Command + N