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Browsing Google using incognito mode may not be as private as you think

Browsing Google using incognito mode may not be as private as you think

You might want to be careful next time you're surfing the web

If you are using the internet, and you don't fancy anyone finding out about it - let's say that your significant other has a birthday coming up, perhaps - then you've probably used your browser's private browsing windows.

Come on, what else are you thinking of using it for?

However, while it might furnish you with the illusion of online privacy, the reality could be entirely different, and there might be ways in which someone could find out what you were doing after all.

Incognito mode guarantees privacy, right?
picsmart/Alamy

If you've ever read the small print when you open up that darkened window, you'll notice that the common browsers - ones like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari - will tell you that internet providers, website operators, and data collectors can still see what you're up to.

Despite that being made clear, many people - as high as 40 percent, according to a study performed in 2018 - believe their location is secure when in private mode.

And around 22 percent believe the government or their internet company can't track what they're doing while behind the darkened window's protection.

In fact, all it really does is delete your browsing history and cookies immediately after you close the window, which is something you could easily do yourself after you've done whatever it is that you're doing.

So, even if you're in the private window, you can still be tracked via your IP address, as well as 'browser fingerprints' that are bits of information provided by your computer to make websites display properly, as per Vice.

While you might think that's a relatively small amount of information, if it was pulled together then they could pretty much tell it was you.

How safe is it?
Igor Stevanovic/Alamy

Under GDPR rules, the internet providers can hang onto data for as long as 'strictly necessary' before it is discarded.

They've also got to justify why they're keeping it, which allows the government and police to obtain it should they request.

If you want to remain completely unseen, you can work through Tor, a free browser that redirects your request through at least three random servers, but even that isn't totally private.

You could back it up with a VPN, or get a USB plug-in operating system that goes by the hard drive and can be plugged in and removed whenever you want.

VPNs can help with online privacy.
Yuen Man Cheung/Alamy

When plugged in, the Tails operating system, which is then installed on the aforementioned USB device, directs everything through the Tor network, before wiping the device's RAM after every shutdown.

When you're not using that, you can just use Windows or Mac OS, depending on your preference.

While it's hard to see what you might be up to that would require that level of privacy, you should always remember that just because you feel private in Incognito Mode, doesn't mean people can't really see what you're up to.

So be careful out there.

Featured Image Credit: picsmart / Alamy