Is it better to use a private browser than browsing in “incognito” mode?

If you want to start protecting your privacy when you are online and browsing the web, then the solution might be right in front of you: You can start to use a private web browser that defaults to private browsing mode, and has strong, built-in privacy-protecting features.

Auto-delete your browser history

You should store as little personal browsing data as possible on the computers you use. It is a simple but efficient way to make you less interesting to online tracking companies. The less data there is, the less there is to collect.

By default, normal browsers store everything you do and let the websites you visit do it too. That includes what pages you visit, the amount of time spent on each page, if you are a returning visitor, what other sites you visited before, and where you go after you leave a given page. All of this information is personal information about you and the computer you are using.

It is one thing if someone who uses your computer and browser sees your history and bookmarks on your device, but another thing altogether when invisible middleman companies sniff around to track your behaviour and sell it, to serve you with highly targeted ads.

A normal internet browser saves browsing information on your device in a so-called cache, this is done to save you from the tedium of retyping every URL, and waiting over and over again for each picture to load. This cache includes your entire browsing history.

With private browsing, you don’t have to worry about deleting your browsing data after each session or each page visit. It will be automatically deleted, and your history will not be visible to your kids, parents or friends if they use your computer.

Hiding bookmarked websites from your kids, parents or friends

When someone else uses your personal browser, they will be able to see your history and bookmarks on your device.

This means that if you’ve stored your favourite websites as bookmarks, they will not be private, but be visible to other users.

If you want to keep your bookmarks safe from curious friends, kids or parents, a private browser lets you protect your bookmarks with a password. This will easily limit access to your personal bookmarks, and protect you from inadvertently disclosing your favourite websites.

Private browsing

Browse in private without leaving cookies

Most of the websites you visit will leave cookies on your computer. Cookies are technically small text files stored locally on your device. They can be used to remember your password for social networks, your shopping basket at an online retailer, your preferred settings for language, or your personal search engine behaviour settings. These kind of cookies are often referred to as first-party cookies.

The most common browsers allow third parties to store cookies from the websites you visit. Third-party cookies can be used to recognize you when you return to the website, and are the key to creating a profile from your online behaviour. This leads to the development of a so-called personalised experience where websites target ads based on your historical behavior as stored in your profile. These invasive cookies are widely used to serve personalised ads for you across the the entire web. The advertising industry lists these profiles in auctions and sells them to the highest bidder , typically to brands and products that want to target you with personalised ads.

Read more about first-party and third-party cookies

Controlling the cookies in a private browser is a must – but since not all sites will work as intended when cookies are disallowed, the browser should also give you an easy way to adjust the cookie settings. In addition, you should be able to see, in detail, all of the cookies stored in your browser, and allow cookies if they are needed for a specific website to work.

Protect your privacy and block the trackers

Many publishers and news websites have the business model of showing ads in order to provide you with the content you read. Most of the websites will contain small scripts on their pages, – these are widely used by data brokers and analytic tools to collect your browsing habits. The ads on news websites, for example, are served by the third-party scripts which make it possible to show you highly personalised ads based on your history collected by these data brokers.

One technique taken from ad-blocking can be used, not to hide advertisements, but more importantly to block any tracking of your personal browsing behavior. Ideally you can control which sites and third parties you want to allow to run scripts (small pieces of code added to a website) which may uniquely identify you.

You can block everything, this will break some websites and services, or allow only specific sites. As with many ad-blockers, you can allow the use of acceptable ads on websites. But even acceptable ads can be used to track your behaviour: To keep your browsing private, the combination of a cookie-controller and tracking-blocker is important.

Select a default search engine that is private

Your browsing is only as good as the services you use, and all the services you use have their own version of a privacy policy. Common search engines normally collect your search history and use their algorithms to build a profile of your behaviour and preferences. This can evolve into algorithmic filter bubbles that leave out important information. This bias prevents you from seeing the full picture, because these search engines do not display all of the websites about topics that you search for.

There are a few privacy-focused search engines available. One of the search engines you can choose is findx, developed by Privacore. Read more about private search engines here.

Does in-private or incognito mode give me anonymous browsing

No, is the short answer. Your data flows through a network of internet service providers and telecommunication companies. National Intelligence Agencies will, if they need to and are allowed to by law, use this data to identify you.

Most normal people don’t need full anonymity when they are online, but it shouldn’t be necessary to be an IT expert to adjust privacy settings in a browser. If you want to know more about privacy in normal browsers then read about how private incognito browsing really is in normal browsers.

You need the choice to have a decent level of protection from tracking techniques, primarily used by the advertising industry and other data broker services, who commonly auction off your personal data to the highest bidder. When people want to browse in private and protect their personal information from trackers, it is often because they don’t want to be the goods in a trade between big corporations exploiting private information and browsing behaviour. People don’t want to be ‘for sale’.

Do you feel you need a private browser? If you want a decent level of privacy, then sign up for Privacore’s newsletter to hear more about our private browser, Privafox – or join our online community .

PS: If you have errands that absolutely must be kept in the dark, then the Tor browser and The Dark Net might be a solution for you.