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What Do People Misunderstand About Going Incognito Mode in Google Chrome?

Incognito Mode

Many people think that while using Incognito Mode their online privacy is protected, however, they are completely wrong.

You think you can’t be seen because you have blinders on, but guess what — we can all see your activity online.


Unfortunately, the reality is that Incognito mode is far from being a solution protecting your online activity. Your personal information is constantly being tracked, collected, saved, processed, profiled, shared, sold to third parties you have never even heard all the time. Incognito will mostly protect your privacy locally, on the device you are using, but it leaves you completely vulnerable on the gigantic web.

Incognito mode really is like playing “peek-a-boo” with yourself.

Let’s start from the basics and take a minute to go over the familiar announcement we all receive when opening a new Incognito tab (I know most of you never read it)

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“Chrome won’t save the following information:

1. Your browsing history; 2. Cookies and site data; 3. Information entered in forms

Your activity might still be visible to:
 1. Websites you visit; 2. Your employer or school; 3. Your internet service provider”

Now let’s focus on the first part since the following are the only, true, three functionalities of Incognito mode:

Incognito Mode
Photo: Cyclonis
  1. Chrome will never store your browsing history, locally. This basically means that other people who use the same device won’t be able to see your browsing history.
  2. Chrome will not allow sites to store local cookies and will not send existing local cookies to sites. This means that sites will not be able to identify you by your login cookies, but they still can identify your device.
  3. Chrome will not store personal information entered in website forms, locally. This means that other people who use the same device won’t be able to see previous personal information entered on that device.

The second part, ultimately tells you that all your online surfing and behavior through Incognito mode will be visible to (almost) everyone.

Google, for example, will still store your online searches and can easily match them to your regular browsing session (based on your IP address, User-Agent, and other HTTP/TCP metadata). In simple words: it’s very easy to match a user’s session in Incognito mode to his/her regular one — If you used the same device and logged into your social accounts, both sessions are now matched to the same entity — you.

TL;DR: sites will still store your activity and/or any data provided as part of your behavior on their website. So does your internet provider, your employer, and anyone with access to your network packets.

If you care about your online privacy and wish to stay anonymous, Incognito mode is definitely not the solution. Use a “paid” VPN (free ones will sell your traffic and information). Although such VPNs aren’t bulletproof, they provide much better anonymity than Incognito.

But using Incognito mode and aspiring to stay anonymous online is part of a much bigger challenge concerning internet users in today’s hyper-digital world.

For many years now, the trade-off between internet usage and personal privacy is suffering a massive market failure, with the sole power in the hands of Big Tech’s, asking us, the consumers, to provide them with all of our personal information (without any filter and without a genuine ability to resist), in order to consume their services. This creates far-reaching personal privacy consequences on our society and on our digital and physical life.

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Regulators worldwide have already realized that this market failure cannot continue and therefore legislated the GDPR ( I talk about it here), CCPA and other privacy laws around the globe so that consumers will have a fair chance to enjoy the internet. Thanks to those privacy laws, consumers can now be proactive and demand accountability from companies when it comes to our personal information.

Today more than ever, consumers need to reclaim what is theirs on a grand scale, which hopefully will lead to profound changes in how our personal information is treated online.

Credit: Gal Ringel

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