Private Browsing

July 16, 2012, by | Start Discussion

While trying to read what “private browsing” means, I came across its page in Wikipedia.

It has a very interesting definition. It reads as follows:

Privacy mode or "private browsing" is a term that refers to privacy features in some web browsers. Historically speaking, web browsers store information such as browsing history, images, videos and text within cache. In contrast, privacy mode can be enabled so that the browser does not store this information for selected browsing sessions.

Now my question is have you ever tried private browsing? If your answer is NO then this article might help you and this is the best time for you to learn. New browsers offer this facility that can hide your web activity such as shopping at online retailers for gifts. It’s also useful when you’re on a public terminal.

Anytime you surf online, you leave behind data tidbits. The amount of data varies based on the website you visit and your browser settings. With most shopping sites, you might produce:

  • Cookies
  • Download History
  • Temporary Internet files
  • Bookmarks
  • Form Data
  • Web History
  • Search History
  • DNS lookups

It is not necessary that this data reveals the shopping sites you visited or what you have purchased but it does offer some hints. To help consumers, many web browsers added a private browsing mode that doesn’t save everything. Each vendor uses slightly different names.

Google Chrome – Incognito Window
Firefox – Private Browsing
Internet Explorer – In Private Browsing

One important point about this browser feature is it not the same as anonymous browsing. The sites you visit and your ISP probably recorded your activity in some manner. If you’re not familiar with what a web site may capture, you can read our article on what a web server log can include.

Although most data elements aren’t saved with private browsing some are. For example, if you create a bookmark or download files to your PC, that data will be retained. The same goes for DNS cache entries although I doubt anyone looks through these to figure out shopping patterns. And if you want to hide a web bookmark, try using the “Mark as private” feature on a service like Delicious.

One other caveat is this mode won’t erase previous web data. For example, if you had visited http://www.amazon.com/ and downloaded a cookie, it won’t be erased when you turn on a private browsing feature. This mode only impacts data during your private browsing session such as a new cookie.

In GOOGLE CHROME when you invoke this feature a new browser window opens with an icon in the top left corner that looks to me like a morph of the “Invisible Man” and Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” characters.

While not all this data reveals the shopping sites you visited or your purchases, it offers clues. To help consumers, many web browsers added a private browsing mode that doesn’t save everything. Each vendor uses slightly different names.


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