What does "incognito mode" really do?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/03/what-does-incognito-mode-r.html


Ghostery often shows me 500+ trackers for an average website, even in incognito mode.


What does “incognito mode” really do?

Not a whole hell’va lot. I find that I still get tracked when shopping for stuff, it’s annoying to see the popup adds hawking wares supposedly you be interested in, when you thought you were being all James Bond…


It can be used to evade paywalls. sometimes.


It sounds cool.


That makes sense, though? The Chrome incognito window that even the article features, explains fairly clearly what the incognito mode is for, and what it is not for. What it does is, Chrome won’t save certain info for that session, and won’t use info from the non-incognito sessions. That’s all. It’s not meant to protect your privacy, to protect you from trackers, etc. I suppose they could add a clarification about how it works on websites that use methods X, Y and Z to track your activity, but otherwise…

Personally, I use it when I can’t be bothered from logging out from a Google/etc. account but want to log into another, or to check out things that I don’t want to see showing up in my Youtube/Twitter/etc. recommendations. That’s pretty much all it’s good for.


It’s good for keeping things from appearing in your browser history.

As far as my wife is concerned, I never visit porn sites.


It puts a fedora and glasses/mustache on your comment.


Yeah, those and switching between webmail accounts without logging out of the main one. I always figured those were the only actual uses. (Though keeping sites from appearing in browsing history only works if Flash isn’t being used - it keeps its own separate log of websites visited.)

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(And, FWIW, I made this graphic just for this thread. Hopefully the exif doesn’t rat me out.)

And a tighter:


Almost like it’s exactly what is said right here on the tin:


The only way to get some level of anonymity is to use a browser’s private mode (don’t forget to block cookies and disable scripts), combined with a VPN solution and/or Tor. Nothing will make you truly anonymous on the Internet, but things like this greatly increase the difficulty.


Incognito lets me read the Washington Post, and a few other sites that won’t work with Privacy Badger on.

I really like Privacy Badger. Cory recommended it, and I wasn’t aware there was an ad problem on Cory’s site until I read about it in the comments here. Likewise, folks on Imgur complain about ads all the time, but I don’t see any ads there at all.


I’m on the verge of deleting FB entirely but there’s still a few distant family members who won’t give it up and it’s the only way to stay in touch.

Regardless, I only use Firefox with the Facebook Container extension. It’s not foolproof but along with things like Ghostery and uBlock it helps to keep my activity less-trackable.


user. agent. spoofer.

when you’re trying to not be tracked … you’re going to be tracked anyways. even with ghostery, even with vpn. this is because the trackers (like the article is saying a little) track all sorts of information. Things like your computer name, your browser type, your combination of lots of variables …

So feed the trackers bad data. Use your anti-tracker addon, your vpn, and a spoofer. I also add in for good measure a highly tweaked hosts file. “there’s no place like


I tried using PrivacyBadger and just found it to be too damn fiddly. Pretty much any site I went to would require a whole bunch of tweaking and adjusting to get things to work reasonably well. It just wasn’t worth all the frustration.

For me, the “good enough” compromise of privacy and ad blocking without needing to spend time fussing with every damn web site just to get it to render properly is uBlock Origin and Ghostery on a computer, 1BlockerX on my iPhone, and Pi Hole for that extra layer of blocking.

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And as far as you’re concerned, your wife never visits porn sites either :wink:


If you can’t say it, write it, or watch it in front of your mother - you shouldn’t be doing it.



Don’t forget if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about. (also /s)


this is the type of bullshit i like to avoid.

Use VPN or Tor but don’t log in to Facebook or Twitter while doing so. Since they track by IP and you are on an IP that’s going to be reused by somebody else in a few minutes, your profile is going to get associated with their browsing.

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