Incognito mode, everything you need to know

Incognito mode is present in all your favorite browsers, but with different features each time: everything you need to know

Whatever browser you prefer to use to surf the web, it will surely offer a private browsing mode or incognito mode. Chrome, Firefox, Edge and even Safari and Opera are all browsers that allow you to browse incognito, keeping certain aspects of your privacy safe.

Not all incognito or private browsing mode settings are the same in different brwosers, however. The common feature definitely concerns the non-recording of history and cookies, those small text files that save your preferences and some of your data when you browse the web. To understand if incognito mode or private browsing is right for you, you need to understand which data is hidden or deleted, and which remains on your computer or smartphone. This way, you can choose which browser to use and when it is worthwhile to use incognito mode for your web searches.

Incognito mode, how it works

One of the most common and easy-to-understand features of a browser's incognito mode is the history clearing feature. When you activate an incognito or private browsing window, the browser won't write down your "browsing history", it won't keep track of the websites you visited, or the time you did so. Also, the cookies that are created are destroyed when you close your browsing session. This means that if you have placed items in your shopping cart on an e-commerce site, such as Amazon, when you reopen it, there will be nothing there. The cookies that had saved that preference of yours are now deleted. If you had created the cart in a "normal" window, however, it would have reminded you of the item's presence every time you open your browser.

Just the ability to not be tracked for preferences and browsing, makes incognito mode great for avoiding leaving your login information in an email provider or on a website where your payment information is saved. Or, if you enter a news site that only allows access to a certain number of free articles before activating a subscription, with incognito mode you won't be immediately recognized and you can read more before you have to pay for the content. This is because your browser doesn't remember you, the websites you visit most often, or your preferences when you click on the web page or certain links.

Incognito mode, limitations

Incognito mode also has limitations in protecting your privacy. Although your browsing history and cookies are deleted at the end of each session, there are some data you cannot hide, such as your IP address, device type and even the type of browser you are using. Also, not all cookies are stopped: there are third-party cookies that often still manage to record your online activities and keep track of them, even if you are in incognito mode.

This browsing mode also does not hide your searches from the ISP you are using, nor from your employer, let alone delete the files that were downloaded during the session. Understanding the limitations of incognito mode browsing, also allows you to understand how impossible it is to remain invisible when exploring the web and doing research, using browsers that ensure your privacy, VPN networks and always remembering to clear history, saved logins and passwords, and browser cache, especially if the PC is not used only by you and your sensitive data may be at risk.