Protecting Privacy Inside and Outside the House

Q. If I browse in incognito mode, can anyone still track my movements around the web?

A. Incognito mode — also known as InPrivate or Private Browsing mode, depending on the browser — does offer some protection, but is mostly designed to shield your web travels from other people using the same computer. When you have the privacy setting enabled, the browser typically does not save cookies, searches, temporary files or a list of the pages you visited during your session for others to discover.

However, as most browsers themselves warn, the incognito or private mode does not make you fully anonymous online. The websites you viewed may have a record of your visit, and your internet service provider, office network administrator or your school might be able to see your activity. Malicious software can also record your web activity and keystrokes regardless of your privacy settings.

The Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (or Internet Explorer) browsers all include incognito or private modes for their desktop and mobile editions that you can enable in the program settings. Mozilla Firefox Quantum has a private browsing mode as well as a Tracking Protection tool that more aggressively blocks some sites known to stalk visitors.

With last year’s repeal of regulations that would have prohibited internet service providers from collecting and selling the browsing-activity data of their customers without permission (not to mention recent concerns regarding the lack of privacy), some people may be in less of a sharing mood when it comes to their personal lives. If you find yourself wanting more discretion as you go about life online, you can step up your defenses.

For example. search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage do not collect and share information from your web queries with advertisers. Virtual private networks can encrypt your web traffic, hide your location and help protect you on unsecured public wireless networks. Browser add-ons like Disconnect and Privacy Badger can help shield you from companies that try to track you around the web. And you can even find alternate browsers — including Brave and Tor — that offer built-in protections from trackers and sites that want to collect information about you.

Keep in mind that some websites use advertising and tracking as a means to financially sustain themselves and support the content they provide. In some cases, you may find yourself blocked from viewing a site if it senses you are using an ad blocker.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.