These browsers are far less private than they claim to be

Chrome Incognito mode
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As internet users around the world have grown increasingly concerned about protecting their privacy online, many have turned to the private mode in their browsers in order to prevent being tracked.

However, new research from VPNoverview has revealed that the private mode in many popular browsers including Google Chrome, Apple's Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge are not as private as they appear to be.

Chrome users are likely familiar with the browser's incognito mode in which Google doesn't save their browsing history, cookies and site data and information entered in forms. According to VPNoverview's research, with incognito mode enabled, your online activity as well as your location might still be visible to your internet service provider (ISP), employer or school, the websites you sign in to and the websites you visit. 

At the same time though, Chrome's incognito mode also allows web services, search engines or ISPs to see your IP address, your activity when using a web service and your identity if you sign into a web service.

Private browsing mode

Safari is the second most popular browser worldwide due to the fact that it comes pre-installed on Apple devices. Just like Chrome though, it also has a private browsing mode that doesn't save your search history. However, with private browsing enabled in Safari, the browser will not protect you from your ISP seeing your search history, your school or employer viewing your internet activity and your IP address will still be visible to the websites or online services you use.

After Microsoft released Chromium-based Edge last year, more users have switched to Edge which also has an “inPrivate” browsing mode. As with other popular browsers, Edge's private browsing mode could still allow your school, employer or ISP to access your browsing activity. Also any collections, favorites or downloaded files will be saved and synced across all of your signed-in devices.

Many privacy-focused users rely on Mozilla's Firefox browser as it has long been marketed as the 'best browser for privacy' and is run by a non-profit organization. Firefox's private browsing mode doesn't make users anonymous to websites or ISPs and if you bookmark a site in a private window, it will remain in your bookmarks after you leave a private browsing session.

While you could use an anonymous browser to further protect your privacy online, employing a VPN is a far better choice as it allows you to change your IP address to one in a different place and all of the data sent from your devices will flow through your VPN provider's tunnels as opposed to going through the open internet.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.