Most modern browsers come with a “private browsing” feature that lets you hide what websites you visit, but it’s not a good substitute for “proper” tools. Can incognito browsing be tracked, and what alternatives are available if it doesn’t?
Let’s explore what private browsing does hide and what it doesn’t.
What Does Private Browsing Hide?
When you activate private browsing, your browser stops logging the websites you visit. It also prevents the creation or modification of cookies, as they can tie the activity to a specific user. Some private browsing features also disable extensions, but this can be toggled on or off.
As far as privacy goes, that’s all that it covers. It’s similar to if you used your browser as usual then erased your history and cookies once you finished. This is great for hiding browser activity from other users of the same computer, but it doesn’t stop other agents from watching you browse.
Can Private Browsing Be Tracked?
While private browsing is perfect from hiding that surprise present for a loved one, can your private browsing be traced? Unfortunately, it’s not effective at stopping people from locating you as other tools available to you.
1. Over-the-Shoulder Tracking Still Works
The most obvious form of tracking is someone watching your screen. Private browsing doesn’t create a special forcefield that blocks everyone but you from seeing your monitor, after all! If you can see it, so can anybody else behind you, no matter how secure your browser is.
If you’re using private browsing to hide what websites you visit, try not to get too comfy. Be sure people don’t peek over your shoulder and see what you’re doing. This ranges from buying that perfect birthday gift to keeping yourself safe from other patrons at a coffee shop.
2. Network Logging Can Still Track You
Private browsing stops your computer from keeping logs about your visits; however, the traffic leaving your PC doesn’t change. If you’re using a computer that’s on a logged school or work network, you’ll still leave tracks.
As such, if you use private browsing to sneak in some online game time, the logs will catch you and get you into trouble. You’ll need a way to encrypt or redirect your outgoing traffic to fool the logs.
3. Websites Still Know Who You Are
If you’re using private browsing to stop a website from knowing who you are or where you’re logging in from, you may want to reconsider! As is the case above, your traffic doesn’t have any additional encryption when you use private browsing. This means that the websites you visit can log where you’re connecting from.
Some websites will deny you access if you’re from a blacklisted country. You’ll see these blocks on websites such a region-sensitive TV program sites, where only residents of that country can watch videos. Using private browsing will still reveal your geographical location and won’t skirt past the block.
4. The Man in the Middle Sees Everything
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