Every click in your browser is subject to some form of scrutiny, whether by innocent cookies or by third-party tracking with hidden agendas. In one way or another, our privacy may be at stake. Can we take measures to protect ourselves and ensure some level of anonymity in our browsing sessions on the web? While browsers incorporate incognito modes, they do not offer the full privacy they are assumed to provide.

Browsing without due precautions allows cookies and other trackers to collect a significant amount of personal data. This data, often collected without clear consent, can be used to create detailed profiles, target specific advertisements, or, in the worst-case scenario, be sold to third parties.

Lack of protection in browsing exposes us to the interception of our data, especially on public wifi networks, where cybercriminals could spy on our activity and capture critical information. Even on a private network, without proper security configurations, internet service providers can track and record our activity. “If we use a public wifi network, our browsing information could be accessible to third parties with access to that same network,” reminds Fernando Suárez, president of the Council of Colleges in Computer Engineering of Spain, who also warns of the limited security offered by so-called incognito modes.

What Exactly is Incognito Mode and Private Browsing?

Incognito mode in Chrome and private browsing in Safari are functionalities designed to provide a layer of privacy to users during their web browsing. However, it’s important to note that these modes have their limitations and do not offer complete invisibility on the web. “Private browsing can create a false sense of security because it does not protect us from viruses or safeguard the data we share during that browsing session, such as passwords or banking information. We must be aware that the privacy offered by incognito mode only affects the device from which we are browsing, while the information shared with our internet provider is stored by them,” clarifies Suárez.

How Does Private Browsing Work in Major Browsers?

Activating incognito mode in Chrome prevents browsing history, cookies, and session data from being stored on the device. However, this privacy is partial, as external elements such as internet service providers, network administrators, and websites themselves still have the ability to monitor your activities. Additionally, if the user accesses their Google account during this browsing session, the company may link that browsing activity to their personal profile, integrating it into their history.

Similarly, private browsing in Safari prevents local storage of browsing history and session data, but does not make the session entirely invisible on the web. Internet service providers and network administrators can still access activity on the network. Moreover, if iCloud is used for synchronization between devices, browsing history in private mode may be available on other devices linked to the same iCloud account, despite not being stored directly in the browser.

In both browsers, the IP address and other browsing data remain susceptible to tracking by websites and third parties, revealing information that many users would prefer to keep private. Therefore, while incognito mode and private browsing are effective tools for avoiding tracking by other users who use the same computer or mobile device, they are not definitive solutions to guarantee privacy on the internet.

To reinforce this protection, it is advisable to complement these functions with additional security strategies: using VPN services (which encrypt internet connection and hide the IP address), along with installing browser extensions to block trackers, are effective measures that contribute to establishing a safer and more anonymous browsing environment.

Ensuring Safe Browsing

Experts recommend using VPN services to ensure that all browsing activity travels encrypted and is inaccessible, even to our internet provider: “Using a VPN is highly recommended to ensure that our information is not accessible by third parties or outside the boundaries of our device, offering a layer of security beyond traditional private browsing,” explains Suárez, who clarifies that its use should be “mandatory” on public networks, if you want to guarantee a minimum level of security and privacy.

In addition to this, users should ensure:

  • Installing updates – keeping the browser and operating system up to date, always updated to the latest version –, configuring the browser to force the secure version of websites, and taking advantage of private browsing functions to avoid tracking and local storage of information.
  • Using external extensions with caution: it is advisable to carefully select extensions, prioritizing those from trusted developers. Some of the most popular extensions that enhance security include uBlock Origin (efficiently blocks trackers), LastPass or 1Password (robust password managers), Privacy Badger (controls who collects your data online), and NoScript or ScriptSafe (protect against malicious scripts).
    In conclusion, privacy and security in our internet sessions are ensured by combining various elements: first, ensuring the latest version of the browser (developers work constantly to patch potential vulnerabilities); then, selecting extensions from reliable developers that block trackers and malicious software; and finally, the most effective measure, the use of VPN services.