How to prevent web tracking on your favorite browser with incognito mode
Online businesses, advertisers, and developers love to track your online activities and actions in order to deliver targeted advertising to you. They do this by analyzing cookies and other data generated as part of your browsing history. Understandably, many people balk at this tactic as a violation of their online privacy.
To help you surf more privately, all major browsers offer an incognito option that will clear cookies and other tracking data once the browser window is closed. This prevents businesses from capturing your browsing history.
Incognito mode isn’t perfect because the websites you visit can still follow you and your ISP can keep a record of all the websites you browse. However, surfing the web in this mode is still one of the easiest ways to stay private online, especially since it is simple to use and does not require another program or service such as a VPN.
Here’s how to use an incognito window in your favorite browser.
Chrome incognito mode
To open a page in incognito mode in Chrome, click the three-dot icon in the top right and select New incognito window, or press Ctrl + Shift + N. A new window opens with a dark theme and a notice: “You went incognito”. The fine print explains the pros and cons of incognito mode. By default, third-party cookies (which are used to track you across different sites) are disabled.
From there, you can open the webpage you want to visit privately and use it as you normally would. Any new tabs you launch for additional sites will continue to open in incognito mode. You can tell that you are in incognito mode as the address field and title bar keep appearing with a dark theme and an incognito icon is displayed on the top right.
If you’re having trouble fully using a specific site in incognito mode, try enabling third-party cookies to see if the issue is resolved.
You may find that one or more of your extensions are not available in incognito mode. Indeed, some extensions can save your browsing history, so they are disabled by default. If you need to use a specific extension in incognito mode, click on the three dots icon and open More tools> Extensions. Click it Details button for extension, then turn on the switch for authorize in private navigation mode.
When you are done with incognito mode, click on the incognito button at the top right and select Close private browsing, or simply close your browser.
For the mobile version of Chrome, tap the three-dot icon at the top right (Android) or bottom right (iOS) and select New incognito tab. The dark theme page “You went incognito” explains how the incognito mode works. You can then browse the web as you normally would; an incognito icon will remain in the top toolbar during your session.
Those using an iPhone or iPad can tap the plus (+) icon to open new incognito tabs. Android users, however, will need to open the three-dot menu and choose New private browsing tab. Tap the tab icon in the Chrome menu to view all of your incognito tabs. Here, iPhone users can close them one by one or tap Close everything. Android devices have an incognito notification in the settings drop-down menu. Click on it to close all incognito windows.
Firefox private window
To open a page privately in Firefox, click on the hamburger menu in the upper right corner and select New private window. A page opens with a dark theme and a notice: “You are in a private window”. To learn more about private browsing in Firefox, click the button Common Myths About Private Browsing connect.
Open the web page you want to use in private mode. Each subsequent page that you open in a new tab will also be in private mode. As visual clues, the page title includes the phrase (Private browsing) and an incognito icon appears at the top right.
Extensions in Firefox are disabled by default in incognito mode. To use a disabled extension in this mode, click on the hamburger icon and navigate to Add-ons and themes> Extensions. Click the ellipsis icon for the extension you want to activate and select Manage. To select To permit beside Run in private windows.
If you want to open a normal browsing window when you are still in incognito mode, open the hamburger menu and click New window or press Ctrl + N. You can simply close the browsing window when it’s time to end your private browsing session.
In Firefox mobile, tap the tab icon, then tap the mask icon to open incognito mode. Tap the plus icon (+) or the Private icon to search privately. Follow these same steps to open additional pages in this mode.
To indicate that you are surfing in incognito mode, iOS displays the mask symbol next to the tab number icon, iPadOS displays the mask symbol in the upper left corner, and Android displays the address bar in purple.
InPrivate Edge Browsing
In Edge, click the three dots icon at the top right and select New inPrivate window, or press Ctrl + Shift + N. An InPrivate browsing page opens with a dark theme and details about what InPrivate browsing does and doesn’t do. There is an option to enable “Strict” tracking protection in InPrivate mode, which blocks most trackers but could prevent you from fully using some sites.
Open the page you want to use privately. Each new tab you open will appear in InPrivate mode with the InPrivate icon displayed at the top right. You can exit InPrivate mode and close all private windows by clicking on the InPrivate icon and selecting Close the InPrivate window.
If you need to use an extension in private mode, click on the three dots icon and navigate to Extensions. Click the Details link for the extension you want to activate and check the Allow in InPrivate box.
In the Edge app, tap the tab icon and choose the In private title. Tap the plus icon (+) to open new pages you want to view in InPrivate mode. Edge indicates that a page is displayed in InPrivate mode via a blue icon on the left edge of the address bar.
Return to the InPrivate tab page and press Close everything to exit all InPrivate browsing sessions.
Safari private browsing
To open a page privately in Safari on macOS, click File> New Private Window, or press Shift + Command + N. The resulting page tells you that private browsing is enabled and displays the address field on a gray background. Be careful here; if you have dark mode enabled, there will be no clear way to tell the difference between an incognito window and a normal window.
Open the page you want to consult privately. Each new tab you open will remain in private mode. When done, close Safari to exit private browsing.
For Safari on your iPhone or iPad, tap the tab icon, and then select Private. On the Incognito mode page, tap the plus icon (+) to open a new incognito tab. From there, you can tap the tab icon and then tap the plus (+) icon to open other pages in incognito mode. Each page you open in this way has the address bar on a gray background.
You can switch between private browsing and regular browsing. Tap the tab icon and tap Private to make the change. All tabs will remain open until you close them manually.