Is Private Browsing Really Private

August 24, 2018 6:23 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Is Private Browsing Really Private


Most web browsers offer private browsing mode, but is it really “private”?  If your definition of private means no one that gets on your computer can see where you have been, then yes, it is private.  But if you think that a digital footprint isn’t recorded where you have been with your internet provider you’re sadly mistaken.

Who sees what?

Let’s say you want to visit, as soon as you type in and hit the enter key (return key on Macs) your internet provider sends a request to Amazon telling their server that you want to connect.  Amazon see’s your unique IP address and then sends the information you requested back to your unique IP address allowing you to connect to their website.

It’s kind of like mailing a letter.  You need someone’s physical address before the postman knows where to deliver a letter to, websites need to know your unique IP address before they can deliver the information you requested to your browser.

If you connect through someone else’s network, such as your workplace, the network administrator may see the traffic. Likewise, a bit like the mail carrier, the Internet Service Provider (or ISP, such as Comcast) needs to relay the connection request to websites you visit. For now, this means the ISP is able to read the sender and receiver as well. They may also hold onto, or share that information.

Secure Websites and Not Secure Websites

When you visit websites that don’t have “https” with a green secure lock, anything you visit on that page is visible to your internet provider or your network administrator.

If a website does have “https” with a green secure lock in the address bar  it means your connection to the website is secured, and the ISP can’t read the content on the page that you’re connecting to. However, they still can see what website you are visiting, they just can’t read the information you are entering.

What Does Private Browsing Mean?

Private browsing means the browser will not save certain information only on your computer.

  • The browser won’t save a history of searches or websites you access on your computer.
  • The browser won’t save information, such as cookies or content from websites, that would ordinarily be saved onto your computer to help speed up future page loads.
  • Information entered in forms you fill out, such as credit card information, won’t be saved on the browser.
  • You still are able to save bookmarks and the files you download.

This can be useful for web searches you don’t want saved on your computer. It’s a bit like telling your computer to not to save any website you visited, including the cookies and files that websites would ordinarily save locally. But it’s important to remember that connecting to the web means there are other groups involved too.

Private browsing doesn’t mean you are invisible

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The private tab launch page on chrome

Be sure to read your private browsing windows closely, because they usually say what is and is not saved.

  • Even in private browsing, intermediaries such as your network administrator or ISP, and anyone they share your activity with, can still see your browsing activity.
  • Logging into a website means the website may still hold onto information about what you did there, and tie it to your other account activity outside of private browsing.
  • The websites you connect to can still see your IP address.
  • The websites you connect to can still see other information such as the size of the window or the type of browser and operating system you’re connecting from.

Privacy networks

To learn more about preventing network snooping by your network administrator or ISP, consider looking into virtual private networks, which create a secure tunnel through a remote server before connecting to the web.


If you just want to keep relatives from seeing what pages you have visited, or you don’t want websites to attach cookies to your browser then use a private browser window.  But, if you don’t want anyone to see where you have been, consider a VPN.

Hope this clears up any confusion.

Until Next Time,


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This post was written by Karen

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