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What does the incognito mode really do?

In this guide we tell you everything that the incognito mode does on your computer. Does it really allow you to do illegal things without your boss or someone else finding out? Is it true that it is good to find cheap air tickets without the network tracking what you are interested in? Honestly, it is better that you do not confess, because although the incognito mode can help you in some things, the truth is that it does not make you invisible.

Research has shown that more than 40 percent of people think that using the incognito mode hides the location from where they navigate to the sites they visit, and about a third believe they don't allow their bosses to see their navigation. But it is not like that. Private modes are actually much more limited than you might think: they may avoid a casual record of your activity on the internet, but that's almost everything. Here is what you should know.

What happens when you use incognito mode?

Incognito Mode

The incognito mode is designed to eliminate local data from the internet browsing session. That means that any cookie that a site attempts to load on your computer will be blocked or deleted, browsing will not be recorded in your local history and any other tracker, temporary file or third-party toolbar will be disabled. This type of privacy mode affects specific devices, and only the browser-related data of those devices. That leaves us with a lot of data that the unknown mode does not affect at all.

Can another person view the history with the incognito mode?

As we mentioned, the incognito mode changes to the Chrome browser (and other private modes work the same way with their respective browsers). However, the browser is not always the only thing that monitors history. For example, if you use a Windows computer, someone else can arrive and enter the correct commands to view the DNS files, which the incognito mode does not touch. So yes, if someone wants and knows how, they can still see the browsing history of your computer. With the right applications, there are still easier ways to view the history. Particularly parental control applications can observe, record and display browsing history, and a privacy mode will not affect them.

Does Google have records of the unknown mode?

It is possible, although it is a matter of debate. An investigation showed that, if I wanted to, Google might be able to link the incognito browsing activity with your accounts, such as Gmail and YouTube, for example, basically crawling to see where you've been and who is an incognito user in particular. However, Google has ensured that this is an erroneous investigation from a lobbyist study designed specifically to discredit Google, and that they will never attempt to do this type of tracking.

Can the unknown mode protect me from malware and other risks?

Not really. In some cases it may decrease the chances of your personal information being stolen. But the incognito mode is not a security setting and is not designed to prevent malware problems. It does not create firewalls or search for viruses. Even if you use the incognito mode you can easily download malware, especially if you are not careful. It is also important to note that the incognito mode does not affect the malware that is already on your computer. If there is spyware on your device, such as a letter recorder, you can still log everything you type and steal session information.

Can my boss see my activity in incognito mode?

Epson

Definitely, and schools too. The computer specialist or anyone who is in charge of the internet in your work has the ability to see what people do in an unknown way. This is important for security and legal reasons, and from the employer's perspective it is simple common sense. This does not mean that your boss is always seeing what you do on the internet: that varies a lot depending on the customs of the company, how boring the IT staff is and if the employer is looking to take action for some particular online behavior. Employers are not the only ones who can see what you do in incognito mode. Your internet provider may, in theory, also see what you are doing. Providers often have better things to do than to see what a random user does, but your data is not necessarily private, providers may collect browsing statistics from many users to use or sell.

Can a site track you in incognito mode?

Lisa Fotios / Pexels

In a way, but this is changing. While the incognito mode gets rid of cookies and prevents the collection of related information, it does not make you invisible to the sites you visit. Since your IP address is not hidden, sites can register your presence and where you come from, data they use for analytics. Sites that require a login, such as Amazon, Instagram or sites with Google Account (YouTube, etc.) obviously know that you are there. Sites can even do tests to see if you use incognito mode while visiting.

That last one in particular has caught Google's attention. In Chrome 76 Google has fixed this feature that allows sites to track the incognito mode, giving you a little more privacy. This is a blow particularly for large news sites that offer several free articles a month before blocking those who do not pay. Google's response to complaints from these sites has been, in a nutshell: Look for another way.

Change Google incognito mode in the future? The company seems open to the idea, although it is likely to remain a local only mode. If you want better protection against all types of data collection, we suggest you consider a customizable virtual private network, for added protection.

* Updated by Mara Teresa Lopes on February 12, 2020.

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