Incognito Mode: How Private Is It?

What is incognito mode?


Incognito mode refers to the ability to open a private window in your web browser where you can surf the internet without leaving a record of your browsing history on your PC. You can even change the settings so that when you exit incognito mode, all trackers, cookies, and any remnants of your sessions remain private and are deleted automatically. Effectively, employing incognito mode will preclude any browsing history, files, or data created by a given browsing session from being saved on your PC. Anyone else with access to your device won’t be able to see what terms you entered in a search engine, the names of any websites you visit, and so on. It must be noted that while there will be no record of your activities saved on your specific devices when using incognito mode, your activities can still be observed and recorded by private companies, websites you choose to visit, some search engines, and your ISP (internet service provider).


What does incognito mode do?


As the name implies, incognito mode helps you in keeping a low profile online. Also referred to as private browsing, this option helps conceal your identity on a particular device you are using to access the internet. As previously mentioned, your browsing history and IP address can still be viewed by third parties. The primary use for incognito mode is to hide the details of your online activities for those with shared access to your devices, including friends, family, and colleagues.



How private is incognito mode?


When using incognito mode to browse the internet, each website you visit will treat you as though you are visiting the URL for the first time. If you choose to visit a website where you have saved information like auto-filled webforms, login credentials, and cookies, incognito mode will prevent this information from being accessed.

However, one significant benefit of using incognito mode means your web experience won’t become personalized according to your browsing habits. You may not be aware of this, but searching for high-value items like luxury goods or plane tickets can actually cause you to encounter increased prices. Incognito mode can help ensure that you aren’t paying more than you should because of your love of trawling travel websites for discount packages or other desirable goods and services.

You should be aware that any data generated during the session will be recorded if you choose to log in to any personal account while using incognito mode. Although data won’t be stored if you navigate away from the website in question, third-party advertisers and websites can still obtain identifying data while your account is active.

Since blocking third-party cookies can impact the functionality of some websites, it may be worth enabling them on a case-by-case basis to avoid unnecessary technical difficulties. For example, third-party cookies are generally blocked by default when using the incognito browser in Google Chrome, but you can choose to allow third-party cookies before beginning your browsing session. In addition to negatively impacting the performance of various websites you visit, blocking cookies will also reduce the number of targeted ads you receive during web surfing.


Does incognito mode hide IP addresses?


While incognito mode can hide your search history and browsing record from other people who may be able to access your device, that is where its protections end. To completely hide your IP address – an essential component for determining your device’s online identity and your physical location – using a basic method like incognito mode is simply insufficient. Given the many reasons you might feel apprehensive about the need to conceal your online activities from other network users, corporations, or even state actors, you will need stronger measures to be truly secure.

To completely mask your browsing behavior and IP address from prying eyes — such as anywhere with a public Wi-Fi network, like an airport lounge, library, etc. — using a VPN will offer the protections that privately browsing in incognito mode simply cannot offer. In addition to preventing any of your online activity from being traced back to your device, a VPN also lets you get around content blocks and geo-restrictions to access global content.

You also benefit from having your data and device information fully encrypted before connecting to any network, ensuring that your internet activity always remains anonymous. However, it should be noted that using a VPN will not prevent your browsing history from being visible to anyone with access to your device, so you should employ both incognito mode and a VPN for maximum protection.


Here’s who can still see your browsing activity while you’re in incognito mode:

  • Network administrators: While this should hopefully go without saying, it is a terrible idea and potentially actionable offense to use a school or work PC to perform personal business or access explicit content. Should they desire to do so, the administrator for your device or network can see intimate details about any site you visit as well as the activities you engage in, so think twice before surfing on the company dime.
  • Your internet service provider (ISP): Unless you take active measures to increase your online anonymity like employing the services of a VPN,incognito mode is rendered worthless by your ISP (Internet Service Provider), which retains a record of all your online activities.
  • Websites you visit: Regardless of whether you are using incognito mode, any website you have an account with will still be able to identify your visit and activities.
  • Search engines: Depending on the search engine you prefer, you may run the risk of snooping colleagues or family members discovering search results that can lead to awkward conversational topics.




Incognito mode is a valuable tool to keep your browsing history confidential from others who may share your device. However, there are still limitations on your privacy when employing this feature. Awareness of the additional methods necessary to keep your searches private will ensure that your confidential information remains concealed.