How do you browse? Private? Or, not private? If you don’t turn on Private mode or Incognito mode, your browser history is not private. If you turn it on, your browser history still isn’t private. The privacy mode only applies to your browser history and does not apply privacy to whatever websites you’ve visited.
Those websites still know who you are and where you came from and what you viewed. So, what good is Private mode or Incognito mode?
Not much. Why not?
All of the major browsers for Mac users have similar so-called privacy modes. Safari calls it New Private Window. Click the Safari menu in the Menubar, select New Private Window, and you get a new Safari window. Use it to browse wherever you want. Those websites still show up in History but each Private tab remains segregated from other open Safari tab windows.
Here’s how Apple explains Private Browsing.
- Each tab in the window is isolated from the others, so websites you view in one tab can’t track your browsing in other tabs.
- Safari doesn’t remember the webpages you visit or your AutoFill information.
- Safari doesn’t store your open webpages in iCloud, so they aren’t shown when you view all your open tabs from other devices.
- Your recent searches aren’t included in the results list when you use the Smart Search field.
- Items you download aren’t included in the downloads list. (The items do remain on your computer.)
- If you use Handoff, Private Browsing windows are not passed to your iOS devices or other Mac computers.
- Safari doesn’t remember changes to your cookies or other website data. Safari also asks websites and others who provide those sites with content (including advertisers) not to keep track of your browsing, although it is up to the websites to honor this request.
- Plug-ins that support Private Browsing stop storing cookies and other tracking information.
So, is Private Browsing worth it? Or, not?
It’s better than nothing, but not much better because websites still track your whereabouts online and since most advertisers and trackers already have something of a dossier or portfolio about you, Private Browsing settings won’t matter much. Mozilla’s Firefox has a similar New Private Window option. Google uses New Incognito Window.
Don’t let the privacy jargon fool you.
Private Window will not stop malware, or ad trackers, or websites that have built-in tracker and analytics trackers. ISPs will continue to record which websites you visit and when. Google, for example, logs almost everything you do if you log into Gmail on a browser.
Private browsing just isn’t so private. But it’s better than nothing, especially if you use a Mac in a shared environment.