To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Using your web browser's incognito mode doesn’t protect you how you think

Using your web browser's incognito mode doesn’t protect you how you think

These incognito modes do much less than you might be hoping.

If you've ever opened an 'incognito' tab in your browser to look up something a little risqué or just secret, and been confident in the idea that no one can ever see a trace of your activity, we've got some bad news for you.

The reality of incognito modes is actually way less protective than they might seem, according to experts.

The big headline is that incognito mode doesn't necessarily stop internet service providers (ISP), law enforcement agencies, viruses or malware in their tracks - all it does it stop your browser from collecting cookies on your browsing, and from using your activity in autofill or autocomplete suggestions.

YoGinta / Getty
YoGinta / Getty

You might have realized these latter features were part of the bundle, but there are doubtless plenty of people out there who think incognito mode keeps their choice of websites far more secret than it actually does.

In fact, recent research has suggested that these misunderstandings might actually be the down to the companies that make our internet browsers.

For one thing, to really understand how data privacy works you have to go find each company's disclosure agreement and browse it, something few people are likely to do.

Once you do this, though, you might find complex documents that make it hard to tell what's actually private and what isn't.

Back in 2018, researchers from the University of Chicago and Leibniz University Hannover found that of the 460 people surveyed, many overestimated the protections of private browsing modes.

Vithun Khamsong / Getty
Vithun Khamsong / Getty

It suggested that 56.3% of people thought a Google search while logged into your account in an incognito tab would not be saved - which isn't right.

Another example 40.2% incorrectly thought that websites couldn't estimate their location when browsing with incognito mode, which they often can.

Apparently, the most common error of all was a belief that incognito mode offered more protection against viruses, possibly because people think that staying logged out of websites makes them harder to penetrate.

Some gentle kudos go to Google Chrome, though, which seemed to fare slightly better than other browsers in terms of the clarity of its disclosures - people who saw its documents did a little better than the rest when answering questions about incognito mode.

Still, it's clear that there are still widespread misconceptions about these privacy modes and what they're for. If you're hoping that your incognito history is completely secret, you might be in for a shock if you check out the disclosure document of your browser of choice.

Featured Image Credit: Marc Bruxelle / d3sign / Getty