How to Open an Incognito Tab and Why You Might Use It

Updated 30 September 2022

Incognito tabs can help people who wish to browse the internet with more privacy. This browser tool helps to ensure a degree of cybersecurity, meaning that people working on private or confidential projects can reduce the risk of personal information theft and unwanted information storage. Understanding how to open an Incognito tab can help you protect your private information and take advantage of the benefits of private browsing. In this article, we discuss what an Incognito tab is, share how to open an Incognito tab in the most popular browsers and list the pros and cons of using this tool.

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What is an Incognito tab?

An Incognito tab is a form of private browsing that allows you to use the internet in a way that limits how a web browser tracks your internet history and stores your information. This form of private browsing helps to hide the digital traces of your browsing history, meaning that it can erase information entered into online forms, search bars and websites. While this is a good option to help increase the safety of your private information, there are some factors you may want to know.

For example, internet providers and authorities can still track your browsing habits in Incognito mode. Typically, Incognito mode is useful if you wish to limit the number of cookies saved to your browser, which can impact your browsing experience. Incognito mode can also help when handling sensitive data such as payment information, as Incognito tabs substantially reduce the theft of personal information. Some browsers have anti-tracking privacy tools that stop advertisers and websites from storing information about your previous visits to the site. This privacy means the sites you visit are less likely to target you for marketing and personal data purposes.

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How to open an Incognito tab

Here's a guide on how to open an Incognito tab or engage in private browsing on three popular internet browsers:

1. Chrome

The term Incognito mode is specifically related to Chrome. Other browsers may refer to Incognito mode as private browsing or private mode. To open an Incognito tab, users can use shortcuts on their keyboard. The shortcut 'CTRL+SHIFT+N' is typically the quickest way to do this on most computer keyboards. Alternatively, users can also open an Incognito tab manually.

To open the tab manually, open the browser and click on the three vertical dots that take you to the menu. From here, you can select the phrase 'New Incognito Window', which opens a separate window from your main browser tab. You can identify the Incognito tab by the grey screen and the spy icon in the centre. Below this symbol, you can see a series of disclaimers informing you that internet service providers (ISPs), businesses and others may still be able to trace your activity in Incognito mode.

2. Firefox

Mozilla Firefox has its version of Incognito mode, known as private browsing. This offers you similar protections online as Incognito mode. Firefox has different commands to access this window. To open a new window, you can click 'CTRL+SHIFT+P' to open a private browsing window automatically. Alternatively, you can manually choose the settings menu under the three horizontal lines at the top right-hand corner of the browser.

From the menu, select a new private window, which has its own icon. Users can know when they're in private browsing mode when they see a purple mask icon in their tab. Unlike Chrome, Firefox doesn't change the window tab colour, so it's important to know exactly which tab you're working on.

3. Edge

InPrivate is the name given to private internet surfing in Edge. This is similar to Incognito mode, which offers a cookie-free browsing experience. To open InPrivate, users have three options. They can use the shortcut command 'CTRL-SHIFT-N' or select the same three dots to open a new InPrivate window. Alternatively, you can right-click on the Edge icon and look through the menu that pops up. From here, you can select 'new InPrivate window' underneath the taskbar. To exit an InPrivate window, select the 'X' in the top right corner of the screen.

With Edge, you can select tracking prevention as an additional step against cookies and third-party tracking. To do this, go to the settings menu and select 'Privacy', 'Search' and 'Services'. Users can select from three types of tracking prevention known as basic, balanced or strict. They can toggle the tracking prevention to 'On' to ensure they have set their ideal tracking settings for future use. You can further ensure this by selecting 'always [basic], [balanced] or [strict]'.

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Pros of Incognito tabs

Here are some advantages of using Incognito tabs:

Deletes and blocks cookies

Cookies are what allow companies to harvest information about their users. With cookies, internet providers and marketers can save users' browsing activities and create profiles based on their engagement and commonly visited sites. As a result, they can target advertisements and potentially draw a user's attention to products, sites and services.

As Incognito modes significantly reduces cookies, companies have a difficult time harvesting information and selling it to third parties. This improves the security of your personal data and limits the number of personalised advertisements you receive.

Multiple accounts

Typically, web browsers save information from forms, including information about search results and user accounts, so that they can log in quickly without re-entering information. While this can be convenient, it can also pose a security threat if there are multiple users on the same device, so using a privacy tab can prevent others from logging into your accounts if you forget to sign out or forget to remove automatically saved passwords.

Clear internet history

Another advantage of Incognito mode and private browsing is that these browser options don't store information regarding internet history. This is useful for people who want to limit what others can see about their browsing routines. For example, users may wish to limit who can see their browsing history at work if they're working on a confidential project.

This may also be useful for people who share laptops and other electronic devices with colleagues or family members who also have accounts on the same websites. Not storing internet history also means that people can go about their internet routines without revisiting their settings and clearing their browsing history multiple times a day or week.

Reduces the chance of information theft

With blocking technology, Incognito modes substantially diminish the number of opportunities hackers and third parties get to steal your personal information. With limited access to your information, hackers and criminals find it more difficult to obtain your account information, passwords and payment information or clone your identity. This also means that things like online shopping, logging on to bank accounts and interacting with government websites that hold your personal information may be significantly safer if accessed through private browsing.

Cons of Incognito tabs

Here are some things to consider when using private browsing modes:

It doesn't hide the IP address

An IP address is a serial number that allows authorities and internet providers to identify your network and location. This helps authorities identify people who conduct illicit activities through online means. While private browsing modes mask your activities to an extent, companies can still link your searches to your IP address, meaning that internet providers and authorities can still see when, where and what you're searching. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy server if you want to hide your IP address.

Limited protection from third-party tracking

Advertisers may still be able to track your activities in private browsing. This means that they can still target your search history and customise ads based on the websites you're likely to visit. For example, if a person searches for kitchen utensils while using Incognito mode, advertisers can still recommend brands and products on other sites based on that information. Essentially, companies can still create a profile of your interests and search intents, even in a private mode.

Most sites offer a cookie settings notice when accessing the page. You can look closer at these settings to limit website cookies from tracking your online activity.

Requires activation every time

Private browsing windows generally require activation each time, so there's typically an extra step to take when opening a browser to use the internet. While there are some shortcuts you can use to speed up the process, if you enter information manually each time, it can discourage you from taking steps that help you increase your privacy. Try allocating an additional five minutes each day you use the internet to inserting your preferred browsing settings, so it becomes part of your daily routine.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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