The Truth About Private Browsing

False Positive: A result which incorrectly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.
Over the past several years every browser on the market has baked in a privacy feature called “Incognito Mode” or, more generically, “Private Browsing.” These modes often explain that they help maintain the privacy of the person using the browser, but this is a false sense of privacy.

What Privacy Browsing does (per session/temporarily):

  1. Stops collecting browser history.
  2. Stops storing browser cookies.
  3. Stops forms from autofilling with stored information.

What Privacy Browsing does not do:

  1. Does not stop ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from tracking browsing habits.
  2. Does not stop malicious software from tracking keystrokes or browsing habits.
  3. Does not stop employers from tracking browsing habits.
  4. Does not stop shoulder surfing.
  5. Does not stop browser extensions from tracking browsing habits if enabled.
It should be noted, some browser plugins are able to store cookies that are not removed after a Private Browsing session has ended, such as Silverlight. The information listed above that will not be stored by the browser is not removed immediately. That information is actually removed when the last Private Browsing/Incognito tab or window is closed.
This leads to one conclusion, Private Browsing is not truly private. It is a false positive for privacy; a false sense of privacy. It does not protect the privacy of the information transported across the Internet. It does not protect the privacy of the browsing data from browser plugins or enabled browser extensions. It turns out, all it really does is removes the browser history and cookies for the session in which it is enabled. That is not to say it does not have a place in our modern browsers, as long as we understand the limitations.

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