Science & Tech

Turns out 'Incognito mode' is not as incognito as you might think

iStock / scyther5

You might think your laptop’s ‘Incognito Mode’, also known as ‘Private Mode’ depending on your browser, is shrouding your porn tastes - and anything else you might want to hide - in secrecy. That’s not strictly true.

Past research has shown that, although the feature blocks your browsing activities being saved, your actions can still be monitored by your school, your employers and even your internet service provider.

A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago shows that plenty of us are unaware of these key points.

Comprised of results sourced from 460 participants, research found that 56.3 per cent had falsely believed their search history wouldn’t be saved; 46.5 per cent thought bookmarks saved in private mode wouldn’t show up, and 40.2 per cent thought it would hide their location. They were wrong.

Finally, 25.2 per cent falsely believed that their public IP address would be hidden, proving that misinformation is still commonplace amongst online users. Researchers also found that browser disclosures all too often failed to clarify a series of false beliefs:

These misconceptions included beliefs that private browsing mode would prevent geolocation, advertisements, viruses, and tracking by both the website visited and the network provider.

The research comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal, which sparked concerns around who was actually using our data, and for what reasons.

Scandals such as these became a catalyst for new EU privacy laws, which are set to be implemented next month. The rollout marks the largest reform of data privacy regulation since the dawn of the Internet.

With that in mind, it’s worth remembering your NSFW searches are bound to be saved into some database somewhere. As researchers point out:

The term ‘private’ is heavily overloaded, and our results suggest the name ‘private mode’ implies unintended meanings.

In other words, you’re not as incognito as you might think.

More: You can download everything Facebook knows about you. Here’s how

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