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Incognito mode and why it isn’t always your friend

by Beth Divine 18 Aug 2018

Control – shift – N or find incognito mode in your settings and you’re away – free to browse whatever fleshly delights the internet can offer up, sure in the knowledge that your depraved (or otherwise) tastes won’t be coming back to haunt you in the form of endless butt-plugs, vibrator and ‘enhancement’ asset advertising popping up on every other web page you visit. If you use a shared computer and don’t want the other users to know what you get up to then using incognito is the best way. But just don’t think that your online activity is gone forever…

When you open an incognito window and browse, closing that window erases that window’s data from the internet history files, meaning that anyone who checks the computer’s history will not be able to see that site in the list of all the sites visited. Usually the history files are set to delete within thirty days anyway, so incognito mode merely saves you a few days – which is sometimes quite necessary.

So, closing the web page means that your device’s browsing history is cleared, protecting you from detection on the device used to access the site, but the sites you’ve been to are not similarly cleared of your digital footprints. For example – imagine that you use your mobile phone to send a message to an ex-girlfriend. In the morning – or sometime later – you regret the message and delete it from your phone. However, the message is still in your ex-girlfriend’s phone, so there is no guarantee that traces of the message won’t come back to haunt you in the future. This is also true of browsing in incognito mode – there are traces of your visit on the servers you have visited.

Quite apart from the sites you have visited, many people are automatically signed into their Google account when they use the incognito page. Google Activity saves records of all your online activity regardless of whether an incognito tab was used or not.

Even if you have remembered to sign out of Google before accessing he incognito tab, there are still traces of your activity elsewhere on your hard drive - computer caches and temporary internet files need to be cleared and overwritten before these traces are gone.

So incognito mode can be useful, and is probably to be recommended for use on shared devices – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is a guaranteed protection.