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Is Private Browsing Really Private? What You Need To Know For Protection, Darling!

That’s a great question.

WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO MAINTAIN YOUR PRIVACY FROM?

If you’re trying to keep your browsing and search activity private from your wife, your husband, your kids, your boss - who may see your searches and the websites you visit because they go on your computer and look at your history or your cookies-- or you really just do not want to remember your own search history or have it stored on your computer, then by all means use private browsing You can access “private browsing” in Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Keep reading for directions.

However, know you aren't hiding from everyone. 

Your browser, internet service provider, your employer's network or school network and any spyware could be tracking everything you see on your computer.

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It's important to remember that your online moves are not hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or your internet service provider. 

So, it works like this: Private Browsing hides your website activity by not saving any of the following on your computer history, library or logs:  browsing or search history, cookies, the cache, searches you made or any information that was entered onto any site or "auto-filled" while you were browsing. 

Private Browsing keeps pictures or files you downloaded, but it does not show those downloads in your recent download list or download window. 

It's almost as though you weren't there at all

Except that search engines, your internet service provider, website servers, your employer or someone spying on you, can gather information about you in a cluster of ways so private browsing may just be a step in your personal privacy process. Websites can get your  IP address, your browser location or user agent and can create detail from the model.

Also, if you're on Facebook, Instagram or any other site you're logged into-- they know you're there. Likewise, if you're logged into your Google account, Google knows you're there and if you have your search history enabled, your account history will show the details of your visit, incognito or not.  

I'll tell you the combination of things I personally do to stay as private as possible online. 

1) Use A Privacy Minded Search Engine

When you're in private browsing mode, your searches actually aren't necessarily private. 

Another step to privacy would be keeping your search and browsing activity out of the spying eyes of large search engine related companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and Amazon who want to make your business their business. 

We have lots of options for keeping your searches private. But first, an important question. 

 

WHY ARE SEARCH ENGINES TRACKING YOUR SEARCHES?

Mostly they want to sell you stuff or sell stuff about you to other people who want to sell you stuff. Some people actually love the way Google makes the search experience not-private. They like the way it follows their moves and then--by predicts and serves them the information they want--sometimes before they even ask! I've got details here.The internet is just plain creepy sometimes, huh? Gosh, darn it.

GOOGLE IT

Google is the go-to site for most people when they search the web. But all that great instant info comes at a price: Your privacy. Google saves your search history, reads your email in Gmail and gives your boss the details, keeps everything you say to “OK Google,” and even records everywhere you and your smartphone or computer go! Google tracks your web visits and the youtube videos you watch.

In some cases you can erase your history--BUT, they may have already accessed it so why give it to them in the first place?

GOOGLE'S NOT THE ONLY SEARCH ENGINE WATCHING YOU...

Unfortunately, Yahoo and Bing are tracking, recording and analyzing your private internet search moves too. Microsoft has bundled Bing search results together with Cortana. I've got steps to turn her off at the end, but you can read all about this nosy lady here.

Safe and Private Search Engine Reviews 

Yippy Yea Yea Search Engine

This search engine works by searching all the other search engines and then supplying results. The privacy policy says it doesn't ask for any personally identifiable information or use cookies to track you. It does, however, require cookies to work properly. When I disabled cookies, it kept saying my session expired. Here's what search results look like in Yippy:

Startpage Search Engine

With Startpage Search via proxy, that way sites won't know your real IP address. I actually thought this search experience was pretty cool: The search results look like Google, but you can filter by time--so you find the most recent results for your search.

StartPage gives you three ways to search. 

Click and you'll go straight to the web page you've searched. Like always, specific sites can track, leave cookies etc. But with Startpage you can visit and remain invisible by clicking the Proxy option. It took a moment to load and didn't load the photo- and see how it says start-page on top--that's because the site only sees Startpage IP address. Coolio!

 

Choose Anonymous View and you can read and browse with out your browser tracking you as well.

Duck Duck Go Search Engine 

Use Duck Duck Go with cookies enabled or without. Privacy policy says they don't use the personally identifiable info. Like Google, you get Web, Images, Videos, and News and you can filter by time, adult content and region. With no ads served to you, this video explains how Duck Duck Go stays in business

2) Use a VPN

A VPN or Virtual Private Network hides your actual IP address from the sites you visit, removing one way of identifying you.Your IP address is your device identifier.  IP stands for “Internet Protocol”, and the  actual address is a series of numbers that transfer protocols used to communicate with other devices on the net.
 Browse anonymously and unblock websites when you're traveling internationally with a VPN (Virtual Private Network). There's a bunch of options out there, right now I really like Proton VPN. I use the paid version that comes with email--which is fully encrypted.  You've got to like and trust your VPN because they know you're browsing activity and can help keep it private.

3) Take Steps to Prevent Trackers and Spyware

  • Keep Your Browser, Operating System and other software updated: Use the latest version of everything above.  Hackers are constantly looking for zero day hacks--meaning new vulnerabilities are always being discovered.  Likewise, developers are always trying to patch the hacking-holes and you get those patches when you update.
  • Stay away from questionable software: Every "add-on" or extension is an opportunity for a software program to introduce a vulnerability onto you computer.  Just stick to the basics.
  • Don't click inside misleading pop-up windows or download anything from an email you're not absolutely sure about.  Many malicious websites try to install malware on your system by making images look like pop-up windows, or displaying an animation of the website scanning your computer.
  • Run a computer cleaner like Norton or Malware Bytes to help identify if someone has installed spyware on your computer to watch your moves.

And speaking of watching you- lets just eliminate that whole idea that someone could be watching you through your webcam-shall we?

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4) Use the Privacy Setting On Your Browser

I use the "strict settings" on Firefox, they automatically block crypto miners and third party cookies among other things.  

I also use the Brave Browser and disable all cookie-taking.  Chrome, Firefox and Brave all offer opportunities to block-BUT I don't use Chrome because their privacy policy notes that each unique edition of Chrome has a unique identifier- that's scary.

5) If you Use Chrome Be Aware: 

  • Avoid Chrome: If You Use The Chrome Browser, your search activity and your online browsing activity is automatically, by default shared with Google.
  • Have to Google? See why I recommend this interesting move
  • Log Out of Your Google Account If you're logged in to Chrome or using your Google account with Chrome(you'll see your face in the upper right corner) you are linking all the data google knows via your email account and all your online moves.
  • Google owns YouTube, so what you watch is also included in the information Google knows about you.
  • Gmail is not private.If your company uses the enterprise version of Gmail they have access to all your email and even the words you've typed and deleted. It follows that any and all Gmail accounts are being archived in the same way--and Google has access to all your email data. Even drafts of emails you never sent, but wrote while on Gmail.  I use PROTON MAIL. Love it, it's encrypted and the interface is nice.  Here's a link to the paid and free versions.

Don't Forget Cortana is Logging Your Searches . . .

Go into Settings and shut her down, like so:

Don’t forget to Turn off Spotlight and Search Suggestions on ALL Apple products!

 Private Browsing In Safari

How To Always Have it On:

Always open windows with Private Browsing

  1. In the Safari app on your Mac, choose Safari > Preferences, then click General.

  2. Click the “Safari opens with” pop-up menu, then choose “A new private window.”

    If you don’t see this option, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click General, then make sure “Close windows when quitting an app” is selected.

What information is Private With Safari Private Browsing

  • Browsing initiated in one tab is isolated from browsing initiated in another tab, so websites you visit can’t track your browsing across multiple sessions.

  • Webpages you visit and your AutoFill information aren’t saved.

  • Your open webpages aren’t stored 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.)

  •  Private Browsing windows are not passed to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or other Mac computers.

  • Changes to your cache and cookies aren’t saved.

  • Plug-ins that support Private Browsing stop storing cookies and other tracking information.

Websites can’t modify information stored on your device, so services normally available at such sites may work differently until you turn off Private Browsing.

Note: None of the above applies in other Safari windows you may have open that don’t use Private Browsing.

Private Browsing on Chrome:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, click More More and then New Incognito Window.
  3. A new window appears. In the top corner, check for the Incognito icon Incognito.

 

You can also use a keyboard shortcut to open an Incognito window:

  • Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS: Press Ctrl + Shift + n.
  • Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n.

You can switch between Incognito windows and regular Chrome windows

 What Information Is Private With Chrome Incognito Mode

  • Chrome won't save your browsing history, cookies and site data, or information entered in forms.
  • Files you download and bookmarks you create will be kept.

 Private Browsing In Firefox

Open a new Private Window from the Firefox menu

  • Click the menu button Fx57Menu and then click New Private Window.
    Fx63menu-NewPrivateWindow

The Private Browsing home page will open in a new window.

Open a link in a new Private Window

  • Hold down the control key while you click on any link and choose Open Link in New Private Window from the context menu.

Heres What Stays Private When You Browse Privately In Firefox:

  • Visited pages: Pages will not be added to the list of sites in the History menu, the Library window's history list, nor in the address bar drop-down list.
  • Form and Search Bar entries: Nothing you enter into text boxes on web pages nor the nor auto-complete
  • Download List entries: Files you download will not be listed in the in your downloads window after you turn off Private Browsing.
  • Cookies:  Cookies set in private windows are held temporarily in memory, separate from regular window cookies, and discarded at the end of your private session (after the last private window is closed).
  • Cached Web Content and Offline Web Content and User Data: Temporary Internet files- or the cache-  and files that websites save for offline use will not be saved.

Remember--If you're concerned about computer privacy, get our favorite webcam and microphone covers.

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