Think You’re Protected with Chrome’s Incognito? Think Again!

If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might know that this web browser offers an incognito mode. When you browse online using Chrome incognito, it’s supposed to give you more privacy so your online identity can be concealed. This is similar to InPrivate in Microsoft Edge or a Private tab in Safari. Keep reading to learn more!

So how private is Google Chrome’s incognito mode? For a company that has made billions selling your data and online browsing habits to advertisers, it can seem counter-intuitive for Google to offer a mode of web browsing that actually hides your data and online activities.

Going Incognito

To get into Chrome’s incognito mode, all you have to do is open the options menu by clicking on the three vertical dots at the top right corner. From here choose the “New Incognito window” option.

When you first open up the Incognito window, you’ll see a message saying “You’ve gone incognito. Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity.”

Google Chrome’s incognito window.

This message would lead you to think that you are protected from prying eyes. Although it is somewhat true, it’s also important to note that you are not protected against website operators and advertisers who collect your browsing activity and habits for marketing purposes.

Does Incognito Protect Against Viruses?

Another common misconception about Chrome’s incognito mode is that it can protect your computer from malware and viruses. This is 100% not true.

Using incognito mode will not protect against viruses. Any viruses or malware that infect you from your regular browser can also infect you while in incognito.

Instead, for real-time virus protection, we recommend using an antivirus like McAfee, and run your FixMeStick once a month to keep your computer fast, clean, and safe.

A computer screen showing the Google Chrome browser used to login to Gmail
Using Chrome’s incognito mode does not protect you against viruses.

When to Use Chrome’s Incognito Mode

So if incognito mode doesn’t protect you from viruses, then what is it actually good for?

Well, it does give you a layer of privacy especially when you are sharing one computer with multiple users. For example, on a computer used by multiple members of a family, incognito mode can shield your browsing habits from other family members.

If you have multiple accounts for the same service, you can log into both of them at the same time while using incognito. For example, if you have two Facebook accounts and you want to log into both of them at the same time, you can log into one using your regular Chrome browser and log into the other using an incognito window.

Note that there’s also a catch. While Chrome’s incognito mode does not use tracking cookies to keep track of your browsing habits, a further study by the Vanderbilt University has shown that if you were logged into your Google account via any Google services like Gmail, then there’s a chance your incognito browsing history might be tracked anyway.

How Advertisers Collect Your Information

The more Google products you use, the more information Google has about you such as your location, what you like to watch online, your search queries, and more.

Have a Google Home? How about a Google phone that’s loaded with Google applications such as Google maps? If all your Google products are linked to a single Google account, then this account will be very valuable to advertisers. Same for your other data collected by companies like Amazon and Facebook.

A Google account full of your browsing history and personal data is highly valuable to advertisers.

However, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. Having a tailored online account can also give you tailored content. Like watching cat videos? Google can show you more! Made a playlist of your favorite songs on YouTube? YouTube can show you more similar songs!

But for those who are more conscious about online privacy, or would like to take a stand against data collection by large corporations, there are some things you can do to mitigate the extent of their collection powers.

Tip 1 – Don’t Log In to Your Google Accounts

Unless you need to check your emails, try to stay logged out of your Google or Gmail account, especially when you are browsing the internet.

While going on websites and services owned by Google like YouTube, also try to stay logged out unless you absolutely need an account to use the service, or if you’d like tailored content for websites such as YouTube.

Tip 2 – Try The StartMeStick, Our Latest Product

Instead of having an incognito browser, the StartMeStick can turn your entire computer into an ‘incognito system’!

It doesn’t necessarily prevent Google from tracking you (let’s be honest, nobody can hide from Google), but it does add a layer of protection that hides your identity and provides protection from having your personal information collected by your computer’s operating system.

Tip 3 – Use a VPN

VPNs are handy when you want to redirect your internet traffic away from your internet service provider. Instead, it will be passed through a remote tunnel where it will be encrypted so that it will be unreadable for anyone who comes across it.

To prevent websites from getting your IP address, which is linked to your physical location, consider using a VPN to hide yourself online.

Tip: The StartMeStick comes with a built-in VPN. Just another reason to give the StartMeStick a try – click here to check it out.

Tip 4 – Keep Separate Accounts or Use Third-Party Apps

If you have multiple Google accounts, like ones from work or school, consider keeping them separate. Only use one account while at work or at school and use a different Google account when you are at home.

If you have your passwords saved in Chrome Sync note that they’ll be linked to your Google account as well. It can save you the trouble of typing in your passwords each time. But if you want to keep your passwords away from your Google account, consider switching to a third-party password manager like Dashlane.

That way, if your Google account gets hacked, or if you forget to log out of your Google account after your browsing session on a public computer, your passwords will stay safe and protected.

Have any questions about private browsing sessions or the StartMeStick? Leave them in the comments below!

14 comments

  1. Biase - Reply

    If you use the Google chrome link with the smartstick, can Google track your search history?

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Biase, I’m not sure exactly what Google Chrome link you’re referring to. But anytime you are logged in to your Google account while using Chrome, you are being tracked and your online visits will be linked to your Google account even while using StartMeStick. However, if you never log in to your Google account while in StartMeStick, then your online activities will not be linked to your Google account and will simply disappear after you disconnect the StartMeStick.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Huel, we sent a follow-up email to you to better assist you, please check your email. Thanks!

  2. Richard Donohue - Reply

    Hey Linda,
    In Jan. 2020 I switched over to Windows 10(the worst thing I ever did!!). I tried running a few “Fix-me -stick” scans and had nothing but trouble. In fact, at one point I got the dreaded BSD! When I ran Win7 home premium, (for 13years) I never had a Blue Screen now I’ve had about 6! Is there a certain way to run a Fix-me Stick scan w/o screwing up my machine? Thanks in advance.

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Richard, running FixMeStick generally does not cause blue screens. It might mean that there are other computer issues that may be causing it. If your FixMeStick scans come out clean, then it’s probably not caused by viruses so it’s best to have the computer checked by a technician for possible hardware issues. However, you can email us at support@fixmestick.com if you have further questions about this.

  3. Edmund Dumas - Reply

    I want to watch programming from other countries. But can’t because of my ip address. Will the VPN allow me to do this? And what about my phone? I’m had to go from a secure BlackBerry 10 phone to a nosy android phone that use apps that require access to items that it should not need in order to run can you help with that? Thanks!

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Edmund, when you use a VPN you are essentially re-routing your internet traffic (changing your IP address) through servers located anywhere in the world. This can help with accessing programming from other countries. A VPN should also work on smartphones. If you have further questions, feel free to leave us a message here and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

  4. Casey Landis - Reply

    Thank you guys for such a great product. Its because of people like you that are upfront and honest in times like these that i still believe theres hope out there.

  5. ken - Reply

    Hi Linda its about time someone told the truth about chrome–I have used chrome book for several yrs. now and no matter what I did google always tracked me–and now it is near end of life; and google will not support it as they use to—each time I go to any web site I will get a bunch of redirects—yes the chrome browser can be hi-jacked (LOL) as the old saying goes (if it is free then it is to good to be true)–have a nice day and be safe–

  6. Steven Parak - Reply

    Hello Linda and the Fix Me Stick/Start Me Stick Team. I have been reading the Q&A and find them very helpful. I still have an older desktop running windows xp that my wife bugs me about to get rid of. I however hate to get rid of something that is still working. I haven’t used it in years since Microsoft no longer supports xp. Now I am pleased to see there is a way of being able to put it to use again and safely browse the Internet. I’m considering getting the new Start Me Stick. If I do use the Start Me Stick I’m thinking I still need to purchase a seperate antivirus/security software . I currently use the Fix Me Stick with my windows 10 laptop and use iolo Ultimate Defense to protect it. Am I correct?

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi Steven, we do not recommend running an antivirus program during your StartMeStick session. This is because StartMeStick resets itself after each session. Any viruses that you may have downloaded during your StartMeStick session will be wiped as soon as you shut down your StartMeStick session. However, you can still install an antivirus program on your regular host computer’s operating system. If you have more questions about this, simply drop us a message here.

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