Important Tips for Private Browsing

“Private Browsing” in Safari and Firefox, “InPrivate Browsing” in Internet Explorer, “Incognito mode” in Chrome strives to achieve the same things: make it difficult for other users of the computer to figure out your “whereabouts” while surfing the web.  These browsers also try to make it difficult to see if someone has used the computer prior to them.

In order to keep browsing private, other computer users, the history, cookies, cached items must be discarded. To prevent websites from tracking visitors, the browsers must ensure that they do not send cookies or other information from non-private sessions when operating in private mode.

I have news for anyone who believes in the capabilities of browsing the web privately; browsers are not failing proof.  Internet browsers cannot always isolate private sessions from non-private sessions.  Typically, websites can detect visitors between private and non-private sessions.  No matter where you travel on the web, there are always indications of where you have traveled and visited.  Visits can be detected by local users.


The issue of privacy worsened when browser plug-ins and extensions were considered. Extensions and plug-ins have the capabilities of storing data that defeat the purpose of “browsing privately”.  One outstanding example of this is Adobe Flash; this software has its own cookies and the Flash’s cookies in the past did not respect privacy modes of internet browsers. Cookies that were set in private mode were present and the cookies set in public mode could be read in private mode.  Thankfully, the privacy issues with Flash have been fixed, but internet plug-ins contains similar bugs.

Chrome and Internet Explorer both can disable browser extensions by default in their private modes; Firefox on the other hand, cannot and this provides an avenue where private information can easily be leaked to other computer users.

Microsoft advertises “InPrivate Browsing” as a safe-way for users to shop and buy gifts online without fear of private financial information being left behind for other users to steal. Sadly, shopping online is not the most common reason for wanting to use private browsing.

The most common explanation is to search for the filth and sleazy underbellies of websites. Six percent of users enlist private browsing for shopping and general browsing with eight percent using it for sexual entertainment.

Developers of add-ons more than likely did not consider private browsing mode when they were designing the software, and their source codes were not subjected to the same scrutiny that browsers are typically subjected to.


Developer’s suggestions

Developers have suggested various solutions to the add-on nuisance and privacy issues. One example is that browsers could consult block lists on web sites that should not be visited while surfing the web in private browsing mode.  Additionally, websites could present policy statements showing that they will not violate private browsing.  Websites could also post seals guaranteeing that private browsing will not leave traces of information on their sites.

Are there such things as private browsing? Some will say yes; some will say no. Either way, no matter what you are performing online, your task(s) should be performed with caution. It proves clear that simply being in “private browsing” mode is not enough.  With software’s such as add-ons and extensions, it proves difficult to privately do anything anymore on the Internet.

Author Box: This Article is a contribution by Jason Phillips, Jason is an online programmer and he has a cosmic knowledge of web designing, web hosting and SEO, Visit his site Flash templates for more information.

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