Named InPrivate browsing in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, and Incognito mode in Google Chrome, private browsing has many uses, despite many assuming that people only use it when browsing adult websites. When you use this special mode, no information about the websites you visit should be saved on the device, such as cookies, history, and cache information. Everything should disappear as soon as you close the private browsing window. However, this feature is not only useful for keeping your browsing habits to yourself, but it also has some other uses.
- Sign in on Other Computers
When using any public computer, you should always use private browsing, particularly when signing into any online accounts, such as Gmail or Facebook. However, if you’re using a friend’s computer, it also makes sense to use private browsing, particularly if you both have accounts on the same website. For example, if you both have a Gmail account, you’ll need to ask your friend to sign out before you can sign in. Alternatively, however, you can just log in using the private browser instead. You’ll be automatically signed out as soon as you close the window.
- Shop Online Freely
Since regular browsing saves all of your searches and visited websites, advertisers use the information to personalize certain search results. For example, if you regularly shop on Amazon, the website will suggest products to you based on previous searches. While this feature might be useful on occasion, the process is entirely automated, so it can get things wrong. If you want to shop online free from such distractions, you can usually do so by using private browsing, since previous search queries are usually stored in cookies on your computer rather than on your actual account.
- Bypass Search Engine Personalization
By default, Google and most other search engines use your search history to customize your search results, and while this can be useful, you might occasionally want to see how the search results look to everyone else. Private browsing will also allow you to carry out these searches without you having to log out on your regular browser. Private browsing also allows you to see how a website looks to the general public. For example, it’s ideal for viewing your Facebook profile as it appears to the general public, without having to log off and clear your Internet history first.
- Access Multiple Online Accounts
Most websites with account-gated online services, such as social networks and Web-based email services, only allow you to log in on one account at a time. Private browsing, on the other hand, allows you to have two accounts on the same website open simultaneously. You can further increase the maximum number of accounts you can have open by using additional private browsing windows. The reason this trick works is because private browsing windows use their own cookies, containing login information, which are completely separate from the main browser.
- Avoid Reading Limits on Subscription Websites
Some websites, particularly online versions of printed newspapers and magazines, have reading limits, only allowing guest visitors to read a certain maximum number of articles per day, week, or month. The number of articles you have already read are typically stored as cookies, which are deleted automatically after a private browsing session. The only other way around this limitation, without subscribing to the website in question, is to completely clear your browser’s cookie cache, which usually isn’t a convenient option.
Ultimately, private browsing allows you to protect your privacy online while also affording you the convenience of being able to access a fresh browser state whenever you need it, without having to completely clear your history. Particularly when using any public machine, private browsing is a must for keeping your data safe and decreasing the risk of accidentally leaving yourself logged on to accounts containing personal or financial information.
Despite the clear benefits of private browsing, it is also important to stress that it is not fool-proof, and it does absolutely nothing to prevent people from monitoring you externally, such as your employer or Internet service provider. Many search engines and social networks also record your search history, albeit anonymously, and private browsing has no impact on this. As always, you should err on the side of caution whenever entering private information online.