Many are already familiar with the feature in most browsers to “hide” your browsing history. Chrome calls it “Incognito,” Edge named it “InPrivate” and Firefox calls it “Private Browsing Mode.” But do you really know what you’re hiding and what you’re not?
Originally introduced by Google in Chrome, the feature allowed a family or friends to share the same computer/browser without sharing each other’s browsing history. When you end a session while surfing in Incognito your history, cookies and temporarily cached pages are deleted.
Seems super handy, you may not want your partner to know you’ve been shopping for a gift. You probably don’t want the kids to see what dads up to online when moms away, or mom for that matter. If you share a computer in a public space like an Internet cafe, you certainly don’t want the next user to spy on your surfing activities. But a recent study released by the University of Chicago reveals users have misconceptions that the feature offers even more privacy. These misconceptions have given folks a false sense that their online privacy is also being protected, well it’s not.
The study of 460 students in Chicago came up with interesting statistics; in fact, you may also be guilty of expecting the following from running your surfing session while in Incognito mode:
- 40% expect that their location was being blocked
- 22% felt there IP address was masked
- 37% didn’t think their employers could see where they had been
- 27% expected it also to block viruses and malware
- 56% of the participants excepted, even though they were logged into Google, their search queries were not be logged
As you see these misunderstandings included viewpoints that private browsing mode would prevent geolocation, advertisements, viruses, and tracking by both the websites visited, and the network provider are all wrong.
One of the most alarming misconceptions is that anyone who uses your computer can’t tell where you’ve been. Try of for yourself a experience this shocking result. Switch into Incognito, bookmark a page, then close down the session. Surprise, it’s stored in your browser in the shared bookmark section, whoops. It’s not a show stopper, but more like embarrassing if you thought you were “temporary” marking a page.
And watch out for downloads, those stay on the computer after a shutdown, they aren’t deleted along with temp cache and cookies, plus they’re usually saved in the default download folder, so others will find them.
Now here’s some more bad news, it’s not the student’s fault, the browser manufacturers have given us a false sense of privacy. It all starts with the naming of the feature; you’re not really that private. Opera-Mobile states “Your secrets are safe”, Firefox Focus encourage users to “browse like no one’s watching.” Fortunately, there are ways to be more private and protect your online behavior and privacy.
You can run a VPN or browse over the Tor network; this will help hide your location and stop geolocation targeting and tracking. Run an ad/tracker blocker; this will help stop evasive code being used to monitor your activities, which are then used to build individual personality profiles. Using cloaking tools allow you to pretend to be another device like a tablet, mobile phone, PC, Mac, etc. We also suggest trying a habit of not logging in unless you need to and then use one browser for work, one for fun, one for shopping, etc. And even then, try using the private mode, but be aware it’s not total a privacy protection feature.
You could do all this on every device in your house, and tell every member of your family to also. But there’s a more effective tool against data sniffers. The free solution is called eBlocker.
eBlocker monitors all your Internet traffic for you. eBlocker allows anonymous surfing – on all devices, Internet browsers, and operating systems. It simply connects to your home network and is a plug-and-play solution that instantly protects your home’s privacy. It protects all devices without additional browser plug-ins or software installations.
Here’s a list of just some of the features:
- Open Source and free of charge
- Blocks trackers and data collecting ads
- IP anonymization (country of IP freely selectable)
- VPN & Tor for all devices
- Browser protection against malware & phishing
- Device cloaking
- Mobile protection
- Multi-user capable
- Individual settings per device
- Protects all operating systems, devices & browsers
- No software installation
Safer and faster Internet surfing
All features of eBlocker can be set individually – be it blocking out data collectors, blocking tracking ads, anonymizing your own IP address or cloaking the device you are using. A pleasant side effect: Since ads and trackers are not loaded in the first place, surfing the Internet is much quicker!
Please note that this article was originally published by the former eBlocker GmbH. The contents may be outdated. Today, eBlocker is free of charge and available as Open Source. Check out the new eBlocker Open Source Project.