It is inherent that the Internet comes with data and identity theft risks. Every time an Internet session is opened in a browser your data is being collected and stored for all kinds of purposes. I would like to believe this data is always utilized for our benefit but we know that is not always the case. For instance every page you visit could be stored and possibly reviewed by your local ISP (Internet Service Provider). That nifty little wireless router sitting on your shelf collects data and could be storing your data in plain-text log files if not configured correctly. However the number one item though that collects and stores your browsing data, and is most often overlooked, is actually the machine that you are using to browse the Internet with to read this very article.
Given a simple scenario, say you are at the public library or another public domain where computers are shared frequently by multiple users. When you leave that computer for the next person, you have essentially left your entire browsing history and possibly even your passwords for them to see. They can easily bring up every page you visited in your browser history, see every keyword you searched by typing a few letters, and in some cases even recover those passwords you saved online when you were just trying to make your life easier.
It is time to go Incognito. Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode is a built-in feature in Chrome that allows users to enable what we call Private Browsing. While in Incognito Mode your Internet session is not saved. Your browser in most cases will act normally until you end your online session. Once the browser is closed Chrome deletes your usage data automatically. That means any browsing data, search history, and cookies accumulated are deleted leaving your personal data, interests, or passwords secured. Your footprints removed - essentially being washed away.
Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode is really easy to enable and can be done quickly with a simple hotkey combination such as CTRL+ALT+DELETE, which we are all familiar with. Since Private Browsing is found in all major browsers I have included the hotkey combinations for those browsers as well. The other browsers offer similar functionality in their private browsing modes as Chrome’s Incognito, however for the purpose of this post I have only discussed Google’s implementation.
Open up any of the following browsers and use the corresponding hotkey commands from Microsoft Windows:
- Google Chrome Incognito – CTRL+SHIFT+N
- Internet Explorer InPrivate Mode – CTRL+SHIFT+P
- Mozilla Firefox Private Browsing Mode – CTRL+SHIFT+P
One of the cool features about Incognito Mode is that it can be used simultaneously with the normal operating mode. Therefore you can have a normal session of Chrome active and quickly open up a new browser window in Incognito mode at the same time from within the browser. Your Chrome session operating in normal mode will save your browsing data while the operating as Incognito will protect your data.
To start Incognito Mode as a new window:
- Start Google Chrome.
- Open Chrome’s tool menu by clicking on the tool menu icon on the top-right of the menu bar.
- In the drop-down window click, “New Incognito Window”.
- A new browser window will appear featuring Chrome’s Logo of a person wearing a hat and glasses in the top-left corner of the window.
- Easily navigate between the two sessions using your Windows taskbar or hotkey commands.
Start Incognito Mode as a New Window
Why didn’t Google just make Incognito the default setting if it’s so much more safe and secure? Well there are many reasons including the fact, like I said before, that not all data collected is bad. Running Incognito is also not always perfect. There are still ways that which data can be collected and stored if you are not careful. For instance, if you open up an Incognito session and then log into your Google+ account your browsing history will still be stored in your Google account. A good rule of thumb that I follow is I start every browsing session in Incognito if my session is strictly for research. I then use Chrome’s normal operating mode for basically any other purpose that I don’t mind being tracked or collected.
I choose to configure Chrome to open automatically in Incognito Mode and open up a normal window manually when needed. This way I feel safer since most of my browsing is done for research.
Set Google Chrome to open in Incognito Mode automatically:
- Right-click the Google Chrome shortcut on your desktop or under your Windows Start menu.
- Click Properties
- At the end of the target path, after the last quotation, put a space and add “—incognito” without the quotes. It should read something similar to this: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" –incognito
- Click Apply/OK.
- Now when you start Chrome is should default to Incognito.
Edit the Google Chrome Shortcut Properties