One has to take the developers’ word when they name a feature called “privacy mode”, right? If it says that it’s private, then it must be. Well, not really. Let’s take a look at the most popular web browser Google Chrome. Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amended privacy lawsuit against Alphabet Inc, which owns Google, claiming that the Google search engine collects data if they choose to go Incognito Mode, essentially invading users’ privacy. Even though Google denies these claims, the story has been circulating for a few years and the outcome is yet to be known.
Private browsing aka Incognito Mode
The icon with a hat and a pair of glasses gives comfort to millions of users worldwide, and a soothing feeling of privacy. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s none other than a placebo. If your privacy is of utmost importance, then it’s time to say goodbye to Google Chrome.
What does incognito mode actually hide?
Once you go Incognito, all your browser does is just cease to collect logs on the websites you visit and prevent cookies from being modified or created, which essentially ties the activity in your browser to you. You won’t see the websites you’ve visited while in Incognito Mode in the History tab, which could help if you share your device with others, but that’s about it. When one goes Incognito Mode, the browser won’t remember any of the user’s actions when he goes back to normal browsing.
What stays visible?
You should know that private browsing does not hide your IP address from the websites you visit, alongside your location. Your Internet Service Provider also can track the activity of the browser you use while in Incognito Mode. Unfortunately, it is just as vulnerable as normal browsing. It can be useful though, let’s say If you don’t want your significant other to find out you secretly listen to Nickelback.
Incognito Mode is just a useful tool to hide your browsing activity from the ones you share your device with.
How to browse privately then?
There are several ways of going about it, each with its pros and cons.
Lately, we’ve seen a surge in the popularity of private web browsers. The most popular would be the Brave browser – besides claiming to be completely private, it has some extra features like Crypto rewards, ad blocking and tracker blocking, etc. It is based on Chromium, which makes it pretty snappy when it comes to web browsing, and it uses HTTPS extensions everywhere for secure communication.
While it all seems pretty amazing, there are a few downsides to this solution.
An anonymous user shared his research where he found out that at some point Brave had a pretty substantial vulnerability as for a private browser, disclosing users’ real IP addresses upon entering .onion websites in built-in Tor mode. Besides, private browsers can only provide anonymity within the app.
Proxy servers or Proxies act as an intermediary between the client and the target website. Masking the IP address, it is a great solution for anonymous web browsing. A proxy can prevent the websites you visit from tracking you since the IP address is hidden. Proxy servers are often mentioned alongside VPNs, but there is a number of differences between them.
The main downside when it comes to proxies is the lack of security features. For example, unlike a VPN, a proxy server cannot encrypt your data. Besides, the cache memory of a proxy server stores lots of sensitive data, like a password or username. If something goes sideways within the company that provides the service, imagine the damage it can do to users of the said proxy server. Also, configuring a proxy server on your own can be a bit of a headache.
Tor browser is one of the best if not the best option you can get free of charge. It works by onion routing and it hides your real IP address from everyone. However, to fully unlock its potential you’ll need to sacrifice connection speeds and come across some obscure and disturbing stuff while browsing .onion links. The encryption works only within the Tor app, while other services and apps are visible to the internet.
We’ve recently published an article on the Dark Web and you can get a quick rundown by this link. The worst threat that comes from using Tor is raising a Red Flag to your ISP and law enforcement. Unfortunately, Tor is used by many criminals and it’s not the best option to browse privately if you don’t intend on attracting the attention of your local intelligence agency operatives.
By far the most superior option. Virtual Private Networks create a secure tunnel between your device and the internet, making your real IP address invisible to everyone including your ISP, think of it as a digital camouflage. You can chill in your cozy apartment in Vilnius appearing to Netflix as a New Yorker. Go, Islanders!With a good VPN client, one can bypass geographical restrictions on certain websites and apps, avoid DMCA notices for torrenting content, stream TV shows and movies blocked in their region, etc. The use cases for a VPN are virtually limitless, that’s why there are so many options available on the market.Its main downside is price. Good VPN services with strong encryption, a vast server base and customer support cost money.
Free options often come with loads of annoying ads and are highly overcrowded, making even the lightest operations exhausting. And another thing – don’t get fooled by so-called “VPN extensions” in a Chrome Web Store or its alternatives, as these free extensions provide no security features like encryption whatsoever. Moreover, a lot of these extensions use your traffic for commercial gain and can straight up sell your personal information to god knows who. We at ZoogVPN strongly advise avoiding these good samaritans.