We all like to think that our browsing activity is private. In reality, there’s a lot of information shared about the things we search for and the websites we visit. Incognito mode is one step toward reclaiming a bit more of your privacy in today’s public internet life. Learn more about what this browser mode does and how you can utilize it to your advantage.
What is Incognito mode?
When you open a new “Incognito” window, you are browsing outside of your typical browser environment. You aren’t using your Google Chrome user profile to associate your history to your Google accounts. That means you don’t have access to some handy Google-based tools, such as your saved passwords, Google pay preferences, and easy log-in to Google-owned sites like YouTube or Gmail. As far as Google is concerned, your data is private when you go Incognito.
Benefits of Incognito mode
Keep secrets secret - especially as birthdays and holidays come up
When it comes to browsing tools, Incognito mode may be one of the coolest Chrome features
. It's a popular choice for anyone who worries about tracking cookies or data being saved from site to site. Also, if you want to research a gift for a loved one, but don't want jewelry ads to pop up every time you visit a social media site, you are a good candidate for using Incognito mode. Likewise, if you really don't want anyone to access your search history - at all - it's a fine option.
Public computers won’t have your data
Incognito mode is a handy tool for using a computer in public settings, as well. If you are staying at a hotel, you may need to use the desktop located in the business center to check an airline reservation, for example. Doing family research at the library is another instance where you might not want your browsing history saved.
Basically, it’s worth noting that people who want to browse privately aren't always up to no good. Anyone who values privacy or who wants to keep their most valuable data safe may consider it a better browsing option.
Keep your searches from showing up on linked computers
You may be thinking, “Why wouldn't someone simply clear their browsing history?” Well, this doesn't always cut it. In Chrome, your browsing data can be saved across several computers. Anything done while logged into your Chrome profile is saved and synced to be accessible later from that same profile, unless you specifically shut down these features.
Your boss will still be able to limit your access
Bear in mind that if you are on a school or company network, you will still be visible to those in charge. You will not be able to visit sites that are blocked and your activity can be called up by the IT department.
How to open an Incognito window
Using this feature is incredibly easy. To open a new Incognito browser window:
- Click the three dots in the upper-right corner of your browser window. This is the Chrome menu and where you find most tools
- Select New Incognito Window
Immediately, a new window will pop up with a black background and the Incognito logo on it. If you don’t see these, you are not browsing Incognito.
You can also use a Windows shortcut as well. Press Ctrl+Shift+n to activate a new window (Command+Shift+n if you are using a Mac). Each new window you open while within the Incognito environment will open a new Incognito browser tab.
Feel free to browse between regular Chrome browser windows and Incognito browser windows, but you’ll only have the advanced privacy level when you’re in Incognito. Some people find that having both options open and available is an efficient way to use both the Chrome tools that you get while logged in and the privacy features of Incognito.
How to turn off Incognito mode
You can leave Incognito mode by closing the window, which also clears your cookies and data. You can also click the Incognito logo in the upper right corner of the browser window and choose Exit Incognito to get out. To open it again, use the steps mentioned above.
If you see a number near the Incognito logo in the upper-right hand corner of your browser, you have multiple Incognito windows open. You will need to close each one individually.
Downsides of Incognito mode
If you want to browse sites as a guest, Incognito mode has some perks. But for those who want to sync their browsing history to their account or save places they visit for easy retrieval later, Incognito isn’t a good choice.
It’s best in situations where you want to browse the internet and forget your history. If you’ve gotten used to the convenience of working within a Google-based environment, you may find it to be a bit clunky.
It’s also not a substitute for a secure internet connection or anti-virus protection. If you are using the feature on a public computer, your browsing history may be private, but data transmitted may still be at risk.
Private browsing doesn’t guarantee that your internet connection is safe from dangers such as key-loggers or malicious scripts, which can wreak havoc on your personal data. Always take precautions to protect your personal information
when using public computers and networks.
This browsing tool shouldn't provide a false sense of security. While the typical user may not be able to see where you've been online, your network administrator, company IT department, school, or library could see the details of your web visits, if needed. In a pinch, your internet service provider could access this data as well. While they won't likely look for your browsing data as a matter of principle, they could produce that info if asked for legal purposes.
Incognito mode won't get rid of things that have been downloaded from your browser, either. You will also still have bookmarks if you created them. Any manual action taken or new file created while browsing Incognito will still exist. To get rid of this data, you must delete it manually.
For a wide variety of uses, Chrome’s Incognito mode is a perfect fit. It simplifies matters of privacy, and it can make for a smooth browsing experience. Without as many cookies and tracking apps working in the background, it may provide a distraction-free web experience.
About the Author
Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.