- Many people are under the false impression that private browsing makes you invisible online.
- Your employer and or internet service provider (ISP) can still gather information regarding any website you visit.
- Private browsing gives you “local privacy”. It essentially hides your browsing history from other individuals who use the same computer as you.
Online privacy has become a huge topic of discussion over the last several years. As the world continues to become more connected, internet users are looking at any and every option to increase their online privacy. One common technique users apply is launching their browser in incognito or private browsing mode (we’ll stick with private browsing to cover all the monikers used by various browser providers). While private browsing is a useful feature, many are under the false impression that it hides one’s browsing activities from the world. Today, we’ll take a look at what private browsing actually does and how you can effectively utilize it to increase your online privacy.
What is private browsing? Private browsing is a browser feature which offers local privacy to an individual by preventing cookies, temporary internet files, and your browsing history from being saved during an online session. This feature offers privacy at the local level by hiding your browsing history from other individuals who use the same computer as you. While this is a great feature to use, if you share a computer with a family member or friend, it does not prevent your online activity from being monitored by your employer or internet service provider (ISP). This information can still be monitored at the network level and, many individuals have been terminated by their employer for engaging in distasteful activities under the guise that private browsing would hide their identity and online activities.
So, how can you use private browsing to increase your online privacy? We’re glad you asked. The following are some practical uses for private browsing:
- Logging into multiple accounts – When you log into an online account, the website creates a token that contains your web session information (user name and or session id, how long your session lasts, etc…). Because this information is stored locally, you would need to log out, or for your session to expire, before you could log into the same website with another account. A work around for this is to launch multiple private browsing sessions if you need to log into multiple accounts at the same time. This is often done in web application testing when an individual needs to initiate a transaction as user A and approve or deny a transaction as user B.
- Avoid being tracked by other websites (yes we’re talking about you, Facebook!) – It’s no secret, Facebook, along with other social media platforms, collect a massive amount of information on you when you log in. These platforms even monitor other websites you visit after logging into their service. This is done via third-party cookies, small text files that contain information, such as your movement from one website to another. Private browsing helps to protect you from this type of tracking as it does not save cookie information. You should also review your privacy settings.
- Use a VPN in conjunction with private browsing – As stated earlier, private browsing provides you with local privacy by hiding your browsing history from others. However, your network activity/data is still vulnerable to interception. To truly enjoy the privacy benefits associated with private browsing, one should also use a Virtual Private Network or VPN. A VPN prevents others from viewing your network activity by funneling that data through an encrypted pipeline. This make your data unreadable to those who do not have your encryption key!
At the end of the day, private browsing can be a powerful tool if used correctly. This browsing feature can help you hide your browsing activity from local users and, when coupled with a VPN, also hide your network activity all while providing anonymity! Interested in, or need help with increasing your online privacy? Contact us and we’ll be glad to provide you with some guidance. And, as always, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to stay up-to-date with our latest post!