A guide to the options available for anonymous browsing with different internet browsers.
Anonymous or private browsing is an effective way to protect personal information when using the internet. Instead of saving information such as web history, photos and text from a browsing session, anonymous browsing allows people to access what they want without worrying about leaving a paper trail.
While most internet browsers feature a private or anonymous browsing option, the options vary for each browser. This guide will help explain and highlight the private browsing features for four popular browsers.
Anonymous Browsing Options WIth Internet Explorer
Microsoft's popular internet browser now comes with an option for InPrivate Browsing, which can be activated by clicking on the Safety button or opening a new tab. Once activated, users can open as many tabs as they like in the private window, and all of them will be included in this privacy mode. If a new window is opened, however, it will not automatically be set to InPrivate Browsing, so users will have to activate it again. Closing Internet Explorer will end the InPrivate Browsing session until the next time it is activated.
During the session, Internet Explorer only records data essential for the functioning of the web pages, and will clear that data at the end of each session. This means that cookies and temporary internet files will not be accessible after an InPrivate Browsing session has finished. Microsoft has listed what information is stored and affected by InPrivate Browsing, and it is also recommended to check this list as new versions and updates for Internet Explorer become available.
Firefox Private Browsing Settings
In Firefox version 3.5 and later there is the option to activate Private Browsing by going to the Tools menu in the browser. Firefox will then stop storing information for the following:
- Visited pages
- Forms and passwords
- Search Bar Entries
- Web cache entries
Any documents that have been opened online but not directly downloaded, such as a .pdf, would normally go into the temporary internet files and stay there once the browsing session has finished. With Private Browsing activated the files will be cleared once the session has finished, and no downloads will be shown for that session.
Firefox also has a permanent Private Browsing option available by going to preferences and selecting the "custom settings for history" option. However, the Firefox information page does note that browsing data can be tracked by internet service providers, network administrators and websites, regardless of whether Private Browsing is activated.
Private Browsing Options In Google Chrome
While quite similar to Internet Explorer and Firefox in what is and is not saved, Chrome's Incognito Mode is not the only option available for private browsing. Users also have a "guest browsing" feature and also deletes all the information at the end of the session. This feature is designed more for people using another person's computer, while Incognito Mode is for browsing on a more familiar computer, but either can be used.
As in Firefox and Internet Explorer, different windows can be set to normal and Incognito Modes, allowing users to switch between public and private browsing. There are also keyboard shortcuts to open a new Incognito window: Ctrl+Shift+N for Windows, Linux, and Chrome Operating Systems and ⌘-Shift-N for Macs.
Private Browsing With Safari
In the past Safari's private browsing feature has received some criticism, with common problems relating to ease-of-use and actual privacy settings. Fortunately Safari 5.0 and later versions all feature an improved private browsing option, which can be turned on through the browser and off by clicking the "Private" icon in the address bar. When Safari is closed in private browsing mode it will also open in private browsing mode, meaning people do not have to remember to turn it on at the start of each session.
Safari will also notify users when they are switching the private browsing mode on and off, making sure this is the desire action. This feature creates a more secure mode for anonymous browsing, but may mean users have to remember to switch back to normal mode when they do not want people to know they have been using the feature.
What ever the reasons for anonymous browsing, there are a variety of options for people to choose from. As well as the four browsers above, there are many more including Opera, Maxthon and Arora. Understanding the features and how private mode works will help make the decision of which browser to use much easier.
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