Privacy on the internet is alive and well, thanks to your web browsers’ private browsing mode. This is what you need to enable if you wish to visit websites without leaving a record in your web browser’s history or keeping cookies on your computer or mobile device.
Similar to the other privacy articles already covered, referencing VPNs and other ways of establishing privacy online – this post looks at the privacy a little closer to home, on your computer.
Every major browser has some kind of private browsing mode and they all have slightly different names:
- On Internet Explorer, it’s called InPrivate Browsing
- Firefox and Safari call it Private Browsing
- Google Chrome has Incognito Mode
- On Opera, it’s the Private Tab or Private Window
So, why would you need to surf the web without wishing to leave a trace? Is it really all about watching porn undetected or wandering off social media? Or planning some unsavoury or criminal activity? You’ll be relieved to discover that there are plenty of legit and perfectly innocent reasons to use private browsing that can make incognito mode a pretty useful tool for any internet user.
- Surprise shopping
Are you looking for an engagement ring for your other half, booking a surprise holiday for the family or buying a surprise gift for a loved one? Whatever you’re planning, it might be wise to hide your online activity so as not to spoil the surprise.
- Private research
Whether you need to look up a medical condition without worrying family members, or you’re looking for a new job without telling anyone, private browsing can be very useful for keeping your activity out of your browsing history.
- Shared computers
It’s always risky to enter sensitive data such as user names and passwords on a public or shared computer. You just don’t know whether keylogger software is in place to record your login details and compromise your data. If you can trust the shared computer, take the precaution of using private browsing mode, so that subsequent users won’t be able to see which websites you visited, never mind access any of your accounts.
- Multiple accounts
Do you have more than one account for certain websites? If you wish to switch between your personal and business Facebook page, or simultaneously access two Hotmail inboxes, for instance, private browsing can come in very handy. Opening up a separate private browsing window lets you log in twice, with different user details, enabling you to keep two accounts open in different tabs.
- Friends browsing
Private browsing is also very useful if a friend wants to check their email, Facebook or a website on your device. Simply open an incognito tab for them as a blank canvas to work with. The advantage to you is that you can stay signed into your own accounts in the background, and no potentially embarrassing auto-suggestion will pop up when they search on Google.
- Pure searching
Search engines are crafty things. Google’s search algorithms use your networks and recommendations to personalise search results, meaning the results are based on your browsing history. If you’re after a ‘pure search’, e.g.to see an accurate depiction of your website’s SEO rankings, use private mode.
- Site testing
If you’re making changes to your own website, it is recommended that you check the front end from a ‘clean’ browser, meaning one that has no prior history or cookies relating to your site, or any search history. Using a private browsing window is quicker and more convenient than using another computer, which would be the alternative.
- Recommendations profile
Many websites provide recommendations based on your user profile. Amazon is a good example. If you would prefer your general shopping profile to remain unaffected by an atypical purchase – perhaps an intimate or embarrassing item – using incognito mode is the way to achieve this.
- Avoid paywalls
For visits to websites that offer freebies – free products or data, free trial versions or downloads, free shipping etc – before asking you to sign up for a subscription or membership, private browsing is a clever way to take full advantage of the offers. When browsing privately, no cookies will be kept and the website in question will consider you as a new visitor every time.