Warning: Browsing in incognito does not protect you

Khairullozhon M. was a 24-year-old cab driver from Massachusetts.

He was friends with the two brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings.

The night the brothers carried out their attack they ate dinner with Khairullozhon.

Four days after the Boston bombing, Khairullozhon saw pictures of the brothers on TV, and later that day he went to the police.

He told them he knew the brothers and that he had eaten dinner with them.

But he lied about whose idea it was to have dinner.

He also lied about when he had last seen the brothers and what he knew about the brothers and their plans.

He tried to distance himself from the brothers.

As soon as he left the police station, Khairullozhon went home and deleted his internet browser history.

For the next year, the FBI tracked Khairullozhon with drones, and he was finally arrested in May 2014.

The FBI said that Khairullozhon didn’t know about the plans or the bombing.

But he was charged with four counts of obstruction of justice (three of the counts for making false statements to police).

And one count for destroying “any record, document or tangible object” with intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

This charge was for deleting his internet browsing history.

Federal law allows prosecutors to apply the law broadly since they don’t have to show that the person deleting the evidence knew there was an investigation.

Khairullozhon was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his crimes.

Now, I am in no way defending Khairullozhon, let me be clear on that.

But the fact is, people delete their browsing history all the time.

Sometimes it’s necessary to do so if certain websites aren’t working properly.

In addition to deleting browser history, a lot of internet users will browse using incognito mode or private mode.

But browsing in incognito mode does not provide the protection many people think it does.

What is incognito or private browsing?:

Using incognito mode can prevent the internet browser from saving what you do.

In Chrome, it’s called Incognito. In Firefox and Safari, it’s called Private Browsing.

What these modes mean is that your browsing history isn’t saved.

Nothing gets logged for autofill features and cookies are not saved.

In addition, it prevents websites from saving your shopping cart or knowing how many times you have visited the website.

When should you use incognito mode:

Using incognito browsing is beneficial if you are borrowing another person’s computer or using a computer at a public place such as the library.

If you don’t want your search saved on the browser these modes can prevent that.

Maybe you are researching gifts for your spouse and don’t want them to notice.

Or perhaps looking up a medical condition that you haven’t shared with your family.

Incognito browsing can serve a purpose when you don’t want someone to stumble across your browsing history.

False security:

While these browsing modes can be useful, they also provide a false sense of security.

Browsing with incognito mode can prevent the average person from seeing your browsing history.

But it doesn’t keep your browsing completely private.

Using the internet leaves trails of data everywhere you go.

And in 2020, Google was sued for tracking people even when they were using incognito mode.

Also, even if you are browsing in these private modes, the files that you download or bookmarks that you create are saved on the computer.

And browsing in these modes doesn’t do anything to prevent the IP address from being revealed.

The internet service provider can still see the websites you visit even if you are using incognito mode.

Why incognito is not enough:

There is nothing wrong with browsing the internet using incognito or private browsing.

Just as long as you understand it doesn’t do enough to protect your privacy.

For instance, even if you use these features when you log into Facebook or Google it’s not private.

That’s because these companies match you to your registered account, and that gives them access to what you do online.

Sure, these private browsing features prevent someone from seeing your browsing history if you use the same computer.

But these modes won’t stop a hacker from stealing your data online.

Hackers and companies can still track your online browsing.

Also, it’s a good idea to use a private search engine such as DuckDuckGo or Startpage.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with browsing the internet using incognito or private browsing.

Just know it’s not enough. Make sure you use a safe search engine.

And above all, make sure you have a comprehensive plan and systems in place to keep your personal and private data safe online.

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