Incognito mode won't save you

Gal Ringel
min read

<hl>Stop playing Peekaboo with your online activity.<hl>

Many people think that whilst using Incognito their online privacy is protected, however, they are fundamentally wrong. Incognito mode is like playing “Peekaboo” with yourself.

Incognito mode won't save you

You think you can’t be seen because you have blinders on, but guess what - we can all see your activity online. Unfortunately, the reality is that Incognito mode is far from acting as a solution for protecting your online activity. Your personal information is constantly being tracked, collected, saved, processed, profiled, shared, sold to third parties you have never even heard of and all in the blink of an eye. Incognito will mostly protect your privacy locally, on the device you are using, but it leaves you completely vulnerable on the gigantic web.

“Chrome won’t save the following information:
1. Your browsing history; 2. Cookies and site data; 3. Information entered in forms
Your activity might still be visible to:
1. Websites you visit; 2. Your employer or school; 3. Your internet service provider”

Incognito mode won't save you

Now let’s focus on the first part since the following are the only, true, three functionalities of Incognito mode:

  1. Chrome will never store your browsing history, locally. This basically means that other people who use the same device won’t be able to see your browsing history.
  2. Chrome will not allow sites to store local cookies and will not send existing local cookies to sites.  This means that sites will not be able to identify you by your login cookies, but they still can identify your device (we will discuss that later down this article).
  3. Chrome will not store personal information entered in website forms, locally. This means that other people who use the same device won’t be able to see previous personal information entered on that device.

The second part, ultimately tells you that all your online surfing and behavior through Incognito mode will be visible to (almost) everyone.

Have you ever tried playing hide and seek with very young children? There’s something exciting for children about escaping someone else’s glance and making oneself “invisible”. However, they are remarkably bad at hiding. Curiously, they often cover only their face or eyes with their hands - visible, in fact, to all but themselves.

The same concept goes for Incognito mode.

Google, for example, will still store your online searches and can easily match them to your regular browsing session (based on your IP address, User-Agent, and other HTTP/TCP metadata). In simple words: it’s extremely easy to match a user’s session in Incognito mode to his/her regular one  —  If you used the same device and logged into your social accounts, both sessions are now matched to the same entity  —  you.

TL;DR: sites will still store your activity and/or any information provided as part of your behavior on their website. So does your internet provider, your employer, and anyone with access to your network packets.

If you care about your online privacy and wish to stay anonymous, Incognito mode is definitely not the solution. Use a *paid* VPN (free ones will sell your traffic and data). Although such VPNs aren't bulletproof, they provide much better anonymity than Incognito.

But using Incognito mode and aspiring to stay anonymous online is part of a much bigger challenge concerning internet users in today’s hyper-digital world.

playing Peekaboo with your online activity

Playing it real

For many years now, the trade-off between internet usage and personal privacy is suffering a massive market failure, with the sole power in the hands of Big Tech’s, asking us, the consumers, to provide them with all of our personal information (without any filter and without a genuine ability to resist), in order to consume their service. This creates far-reaching personal privacy consequences on our society and on our digital and physical life.

Regulators worldwide have already realized that this market failure cannot continue and therefore legislated the GDPR, CCPA and other privacy laws around the globe so that consumers will have a fair chance to enjoy the internet. Thanks to those privacy laws, consumers can now be proactive and demand accountability from companies when it comes to our personal information.

Today more than ever, consumers need to reclaim what is theirs on a grand scale, which hopefully will lead to profound changes in how our personal information is treated online.

Incognito mode won't save you

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