All of the popular web browsers have the ability to go into “private” mode . This means that the websites you visit won’t show up in history, and those sites won’t place any cookies on your computer for tracking purposes. There are actually some legitimate purposes for this.
1. Shopping for birthday or Christmas gifts:If other people in your family have access to your computer, that means they can pretty easily go into your web browsing history and see what shopping sites you have visited. So if it’s 2 weeks before your wife’s birthday, and she sees that you have just visited half a dozen jewelry company websites, it wouldn’t be too hard for her to figure out what you’re planning.
2. Using someone else’s computer
If you are visiting a friend or relative, you might use their home computer to log into your email or Facebook account. What if they have their computer set to automatically remember all user names and passwords for any logins? Even if this is someone you trust, there is really no reason for their computer to be able to log in to your accounts.
3. Buying airline tickets
This one is a bit controversial. Maybe this has happened to you. You decide to take a trip, so you shop around and get some prices for airline tickets for certain dates, but you don’t buy the tickets right away. The next day you check on the same dates, and the prices are higher. Some people say that the airlines put a little cookie on your computer so they know that you are interested in certain dates, and then they intentionally display higher prices when you come back, to encourage you to buy immediately before they go any higher. Whether or not that really happens is debatable – but if you search for tickets in “Private” mode, you don’t have to wonder about it.
If there was ever an award for a website that tracks private information, I think Facebook would win that one easily (although Google would probably be a close second). If you don’t want Facebook to track your website habits or put cookies on your computer, just go Incognito. Of course, that doesn’t help much if you still go to Facebook and manually enter all of your personal information anyway.
5. Checking your website’s Google rankings
Sometimes I will go to Google and do a search on a phrase that pertains to my computer business, to see how well my website is ranking. For example, I might type in “personal computer instruction” and see that it comes up at the top of the search results. However, sometimes when that happens it is because I am logged in with my Google account and it is just showing me results that pertain to my account. So I try the same search in “Private” mode and it shows me the “real” results. In this case, my site comes up first for that search anyway, but you get the idea.
6. Browsing on your work computer
A lot of employers are becoming more tolerant about employees visiting non-work related websites sometimes during the day. Still, if you are on a break and browsing Facebook or checking your email, you don’t necessarily want to leave your login information or your website history on your work computer.
7. Public computers
This one is a no-brainer. If you are using a computer that is available to the general public, such as one at a library or university, you don’t want any history or tracking to be possible. I’ve seen reports of someone going into a store like Best Buy, and signing into their Facebook account. Then they leave the store, and someone else looks at that computer and realizes they can still be on Facebook. Now, the way it is supposed to happen is when you sign out you should be required to enter a password to sign back in. But it might not always work that way. In fact, the better thing is to not sign into Facebook on a computer that is on display for sale to start with.
So there are obviously some very good reasons for browsing the internet without leaving a trail of cookies behind you. The next question is – how do you do it? It’s really easy actually. Here are the steps to open a new private window for the popular web browsers.
To start private browsing in Firefox: click Tools, then Start Private Browsing (or Ctrl + Shift + P)
To browse privately in Internet Explorer: click Tools, then click InPrivate browsing (or Ctrl + Shift + P)
To go Incognito in Chrome: click the Control icon (the 3 short horizontal lines in the top right), then click New Incognito Window (or Ctrl + Shift + N)
To privately browse in Safari: click the Safari tab, then click Private Browsing
Whatever your reason for wanting to visit websites privately, remember that even if you are browsing in “Private” mode, you are still entering your information in a computer that is on the internet and connecting with other computers. No one can 100% guarantee that what you are doing is private. Sometimes a little paranoia can be a good thing.