incognito mode

Don’t you sometimes wish you don’t get bombarded with online advertising simply because you ‘Googled’ a certain topic the previous day?

This is why ‘Incognito Mode’ is a popular setting.

If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out on some benefits, like hiding your browsing history or making sure you’re logged out of websites as soon as you close the window. But it’s also important to understand precisely how it works if you want to practice safe online browsing.

So, let’s break it down for you. 

What is Incognito Mode?

Incognito Mode is an online privacy feature in some of the internet browsers. When you activate this setting, you prevent your browsing details, such as your history, to be captured and stored. Your past browsing history—sourced by cookies—aren’t used to provide you with online ads that browsers may think are relevant. And whatever you do while you use that setting is ‘forgotten.’ 

You’ll also learn more about this if you research the following terms:

These are all terms related to Incognito mode.

How to Activate Incognito Mode

Activating the setting is easy. While your browser such as Chrome or Firefox is open, click the button containing those three dots to open a menu. You’ll find options there labeled ‘New Private Window’ or ‘New incognito window.’

Some browsers keep this option in their ‘Safety’ settings. Click on the relevant option and enjoy a manner of anonymity for a while. 

What Does Incognito Mode Do? The Myth Explained

It’s essential to understand this setting in detail, or you can expose yourself to hackers and other cyber threats. Here’s a short summary with practical examples to help you gauge where to use it. 

Above, we mentioned ‘a manner of anonymity.’ This is where many online users get it wrong because they think they’ll be completely unknown while surfing the web. 

100% anonymity is NOT possible by only using a private window. 

Ignore the myths, educate yourself, and take note of what this mode DOES NOT do for you:

  • It can’t hide your IP address, so hackers can still find you, and your internet service provider may still notice what you decide to download. 
  • If you’re logged into a site, Incognito Mode won’t prevent that site from still tracking you or offering you ads based on previous browsing history. 
  • Your own router also does tracking, and this can’t be stopped by private browsing. The same goes for proxy servers. You may even get some ads from these servers based on your activities.

Also, note that the browser you use affects the outcome. If you work on Microsoft Edge, stored cookies will still be used, so using this platform is less safe than others. 

With these drawbacks, you may wonder why it’s still a popular tool to use. 

Here’s what it CAN do for you. 

The Truth of What Incognito Mode Really Does

delete facebook search history

When in Incognito Mode, you can perform tasks you normally wouldn’t be able to. This can make online browsing more versatile:

  • Browse without a history: Your browsing history can be very beneficial as you’re bound to notice ads relevant to your interests. But in some scenarios, you simply don’t want them, right? If you’re tired of the ads, activate the private mode, so browsers don’t have historical searches to base their advertising on. Also, if you’re doing research and you need an objective list of resources, it’s best to go incognito. The browser won’t base your search results on past online interactions, so you’ll be given the best possible list of sources available online—not with some of them hidden on page two or three because Google wanted to show you what it THINKS you want to see. 

  • Privacy management: Take note that we’re not saying incognito windows will keep all your browsing private, but in certain scenarios, it does help manage privacy threats. It does ensure you’re logged out of a specific website the moment you close the window since none of your information is remembered by the browser. Someone using the same computer after you won’t accidentally be able to access your profile or private information because the browser kept you logged in. They will even have a hard time determining what you were doing while online. This is an ideal tool to use on public computers on campuses, in internet cafes, or in libraries.
  • Easy online management: If you have your own website or develop them for others, there is testing involved. You must determine whether what you create can be viewed clearly by others. You can activate the incognito setting and then view your created page. You’ll see it the way anyone else on the web will see it, and you can identify the flaws to work on them. You can also make sure you’re not viewing cached versions of sites with outdated information. If you need to access the same website with a different account (perhaps you have two Facebook accounts, one for yourself and one for a business), you can log in with one of your usernames via a private window, so the other profile doesn’t get logged out.
  • Prevent problems: When working on other people’s computers, you don’t want to take the risk of changing their settings. When you use the private mode, you won’t accidentally log someone else out of their profiles when using the same sites they do. Your cookies also won’t clutter their browsing history.

Handy Final Tips

While Incognito Mode as a tool can be helpful, you can see from this article that its power shouldn’t be overestimated. Because it doesn’t completely hide your IP address, there are scenarios where you should avoid Incognito Mode, such as online banking transactions.

Also, remember that Incognito Mode is not enough of a protection feature, so if you’re on a public network performing sensitive tasks, you can’t trust this mode alone. At the very least, you need a VPN if you want to stay safe and undiscovered by hackers. 

It’s a practical tool, but don’t make the mistake of viewing Incognito Mode as the only security feature you need. 

If you have more questions or tips on this topic, don’t hesitate to comment. Let’s help each other practice safe online habits.

Secure your digital life with Surfshark

Only $2.49/mo. 30-day guarantee with every plan

Get Surfshark