A major hype word and internet trend today is data privacy. Add to this the vulnerability brought in by excess use of social media and the integration of technology into all aspects of our day to day life. You’ll realise it’s a tricky world online. So, what do you do?
“Trust private browsing to protect your online activity and your data.” Well, yes and no.
Private browsing is a privacy feature available with all popular browsers. In Chrome, the most common browser, this feature is called incognito browsing. This feature ensures that while in use, your browser will not save any cookies, passwords, or search results. The main benefit is that if there are multiple users on a single computer, they won’t be able to see each other’s history and usage. However, this does not prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from tracking your online activity.
When using incognito browsing, a wholly isolated browsing session is launched that does not interact with regular browsing. For example, if you’re logged into your Facebook account on your regular browser and you open Facebook on incognito browser, you can log in with a different account and won’t be automatically logged in. Incognito does not save any passwords or websites visited earlier.
Now here’s the crux.
Private browsing prevents your browser from saving online activity and passwords, but it cannot stop other applications on your computer from monitoring the same. Spyware, key loggers and third-party programs can continue to collect this data. The same applies to your ISP, routers or main servers at colleges and organisations. Also, when you visit any website, the data bytes leave your computer and travel through the network to the website’s server, where they will get tracked and saved. This cannot be prevented by private browsing.
To reiterate, private browsing only makes sure that no history is saved on your computer, preventing other users from gaining access to your browsing history.
So, what can you do?
If you really need to mask your online activity, you could try Tor browsing. Tor is an encrypted network that reroutes your traffic through relays, making it difficult to track your actual IP address. This prevents your ISP and any other monitors from viewing your browsing history. And the websites you visit will not be able to log your IP address. Keep in mind, Tor speeds are considerably slower than regular internet browsing due to the relays.
Because of the anonymity that Tor offers, it is often used to bypass internet censorship and intense monitoring. People living under repressive government with strict laws and censorship tend to use Tor networks for access to the internet. However, it’s not a great idea to use Tor for regular browsing. The anonymity is not worth the significantly slower browsing speed.
If you would like to know more about Tor browsing, it’s pros and cons, and how it fits into the legal framework, let us know in the comment. You can also write to us on any of our social media pages. Till then, keep reading, stay updated, be aware!