Anyone that has used a modern web browser to access the Internet is probably familiar with private or incognito modes. These browser settings are promoted by browsers as a way to safeguard your privacy online. Many people make the mistake of thinking that incognito mode does a job that is similar to a VPN. The truth is that these privacy settings may not be as private as you think they are.
What Does Incognito Mode Do?
Let’s begin by taking a closer look at what incognito or private mode is and what it is capable of. This mode of web browsing can be turned on by going to your browser settings. When you activate it, a separate and “secure” browser window pops up.
While you are in the incognito mode the browser does not store your browsing data. This means that it cannot be retrieved at a later time. All the searches you perform, websites that you visit, login information, and cookies will not be saved to your device. Once you close the private mode window all the information from your browsing session disappears.
There are some exceptions. If you download any files during your browsing session these will be retained. Also, any bookmarks that you create will be saved. Almost all of the major browsers that are available today include a private browsing mode. Many people use this mode and think that they are taking good measures to protect their Internet privacy.
What Private Modes Do Not Do
Not storing your browsing data may sound pretty good. Especially if you share your computer with others. Let’s look a little bit farther and see what these special modes are not capable of doing for you.
An incognito mode will not hide your traffic from an ISP, the government, or network administrators that could be monitoring network traffic. Those entities can still see what you are doing when you are online if they choose to do so. The mode will also fail when it comes to securing your traffic against hackers and data thieves.
Think about it this way. A private or incognito mode only protects you against those who want to track your Internet activities on the device you are using. For example, a man regularly visits adult data sites. His wife becomes suspicious and decides to check his computer browsing history. If the husband has been using incognito mode and not making downloads or creating bookmarks, it will be difficult to prove that he has visited such sites.
We’re going to be honest here. The truth is that a smart Internet user would probably use incognito mode as a matter of course at all times. What you choose to view on the Internet is your own business. But it would be a mistake to think that you are achieving some superior form of protection while using incognito mode. That just isn’t the case. Only a VPN can provide superior levels of protection.
What a VPN Can Do That Private Modes Cannot
Now lets take a look at what a VPN can do that an incognito mode cannot do. We’ll start with a brief explanation of what a VPN is and how it works.
A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that exists between your device and the Internet. All data that passes through that tunnel is encrypted, making it impossible for prying eyes to observe. A VPN also obscures your real IP address in favor of an IP address that belongs to the server owned by the VPN provider.
Do you live or work in a country that restricts or blocks some websites and services? A VPN can help you to access those services. Perhaps you are from the United States and have a Netflix account. You find yourself in an area overseas where Netflix is not available. You simply connect with your VPN and choose a US server. This will identify your device to Netflix as being located in the United States and access is restored.
The element of changing your IP address is one of the core benefits of a VPN and why private browsing modes do not work the same way. When you are in incognito mode your ISP can still collect browsing data. Your employer can still track the IP address of a device and find out what you have been doing on company time.
You will notice that browser developers like Mozilla and Google are very transparent about what incognito mode can and cannot do. They will tell you when you open the private window that your activities can still be tracked.
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