Does Chrome track you in incognito mode?
Can Google still track you while you’ve enabled the incognito mode on Chrome? Let’s find out.
Yes, all the cookies and session data are still used to track you during your incognito mode session. But as soon as you close the browser, all the data collected during your session are deleted.
How does Chrome and websites track you?
To track you, Google Chrome but also any other websites you visit, are saving a different kind of information. These are cookies but also session data, browsing history, and so on.
With these data, Chrome can provide you personalized user experience and also personalized ads. The cookies contain identifiers that allow Google to retrieve your data.
What is incognito mode ?
Incognito mode or private mode in the web browsers keeps your browsing history private and does not use all the saved cookies and data. It’s like you are using your web browser for the first time.
Each time you open your web browser, all the saved cookies used by the advertisers to personalized ads or by the websites to get data about you are used again.
In incognito mode, these cookies are not used, all the past data are kept private, so the websites do not know who you are. But the cookies and data used during the incognito mode sessions, are still used. It means that Google and the website are still able to track you in incognito mode, but they are only able to get your browsing history of this session.
As soon as you close the incognito mode windows, all the saved cookies, and information about this session are deleted. There is no data about this session saved on your browser, no browser history, for example.
Incognito mode and anonymity
You are not anonymous in incognito mode. There are still data that are linked to your computer. Your IP address is still known by anybody, so ISP and government can access your browsing history as they save it for sometimes.
Each time you are visiting a new page, you make an HTTP request containing headers, with different kinds of data needed for the request to be valid. This request is using a network protocol containing data from which IP addresses the request is coming from and where it goes. It’s needed to know where to send the request of course but also where the response has to be sent, for you to receive it.
So your IP address does appear clearly on the web even if you are in incognito mode, you can’t hide from ISP and government using this mode.
What incognito mode is useful for then ?
As we said before, with the incognito mode the browsing session is not saved, and the browsing history is not used. So there are mainly two situations where incognito mode is useful:
- To avoid saving your browsing activity on your computer - As all the data about browsing history during the incognito mode are deleted once you close the window, it’s a good way to hide your activity from anyone else that can access your computer. If you don’t want your family and friends to know what you are doing on the web, use the incognito mode, but be sure to close the window once you are done
- To hide your browsing activity to websites - Your browsing history is not used each time you start a new session in incognito mode, which means that the websites you visit won’t have any information about you. We do know that some websites are using this browsing history information to change the page and data inside the page. For example, the plane tickets can be higher depending on your browsing history, by using the incognito mode, you are sure to get the lower price.
How to browse privately?
If incognito mode or private mode adds more privacy, Google Chrome and websites can still track you. Depending on your needs, there are different ways you can use to browse the web more privately, here are some of them:
Use a different search engine
Google, but also some other search engine, is tracking you everywhere on the web to be able to provide the most personalized ads and make money from your data as explained here.
But it does exist some search engines that do not track you on the web and keep your search activity private, so the websites won’t know about it and no one will be able to make money with your data. The most famous one is DuckDuckGo, you should give it a try, but you need to know that because they are not using your data, the search results can be worse than on Google.
More privacy-focused web browser
Google Chrome is not the most privacy-focused web browser, they are using your data even if they are saying that privacy is a big concern in Google Chrome.
Some others web browsers develop good features to help you browse privately and keep your data safe. You can for example try Mozilla Firefox, we made an article about why people use Firefox over Chrome.
Even if you are using a privacy-focused web browser and search engine, your IP address is still clearly known by the websites you visit. With the IP address, we can know from which area of a country you are.
The best way to hide your IP address from the website is to use a Virtual Private Network or a VPN. By using a VPN, all of your requests will be first sent to the VPN server completely encrypted so no one can see what is the request, and then the VPN will forward this request to the website and will forward you the answer. In this way, the website does not know your IP address and will only know the VPN IP address. Usually, VPN providers provide a different location, so you can also choose the fake location you want the website to think you are.
One of the best VPN that I have used in Proton VPN, they are located in Switzerland.
But be careful, you can’t fully hide from ISP on government, they have the tool and capacity to find you even if you are using a VPN.