Your privacy is between you and the internet

Neha Seenarine, Associate Arts and Life Editor

Incognito mode isolates your browser giving you a feeling of privacy. However, Google still sees what you are searching, and that can be embarrassing. 

Google is facing a $5 billion lawsuit for tracking their users while in incognito mode. Consumers filing the case argue that even if they turn off data collection in Google Chrome, there are other tools that collect personal information.

The company fought back stating their “incognito” mode does not mean the user is off the grid, according to a Bloomberg article. The case discusses Google’s data collection practices and private policies. It opened my eyes to realize incognito mode does not matter. 

Google’s Incognito Mode does not save your search history, but websites can still track the data you create. (Screenshot from Google Chrome Browser)

Incognito mode’s greatest feature is the non-existence of search history. When you switch to the mode, there is a message mentioning it won’t remember the pages visited, search history or any autofill information. It is like you do not leave a digital trace in those moments. 

The main reason I use private browsing is to research things I am embarrassed about. It is curiosity that strikes me, but it feels wrong. I would not do this in a public setting, so it is uncomfortable looking it up when my search history is updated constantly. Google searching “What does this stomach pain mean?” in my autofill can bring back some trauma in the next few days. 

I google myself weekly in incognito mode just to see if my recent articles pop up. Sometimes, I worry if a bizarre scandal is leaked to the internet. That would blow my mind considering I am just another journalism student in Connecticut. I also used it to look up people’s voter registration to see their political views. In the world of dating, it is important to see what you are getting yourself into before wasting your time. 

People use incognito mode for other searches like watching pornography. It gives them a sensational relief knowing they can feel pleasure without it being anyone’s business. They click on the material they want, and after they’re finished, they can exit without any trail. However, porn websites are able to receive data on how many visitors they have. 

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Microsoft and the University of Pennsylvania found that 93% of porn websites leak data to a third party.

“Our content analysis of the sample’s domains indicated 44.97% of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” according to the study. 

This can hurt someone that is exploring their sexuality or not ready to come out. People expect their private moments to be kept to themselves only. It is interesting to see how one search session can cause damaging personal consequences. 

Private browsing lets people feel safe, but the secrecy barrier has been thrown out the window. It is useful when you are sharing devices with other people. You would not want your family member to see your colorful searches. However, when it is your own device, you should be free to research whatever you want.