Does incognito hide your IP?

Many popular browsers offer a variation of Incognito windows (also sometimes called “Private” windows). But are these really more private than regular browser windows? Do they hide IP address or other identifying information?

In this short article, we’ll discuss incognito windows, IP address, and more.

What’s an IP address?

Any device that connects to the internet—desktop computer or laptop, mobile phone or tablet—uses the Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate online. The IP routes data between devices connected to the Internet; to do so, each device needs a unique address (sort of like a home address). This IP address is generally visible to the apps and services you use online, but can also be useful to advertisers, Big Tech, and others to identify you online. If you want online privacy, hiding your IP address is a good place to start.

What’s “Incognito mode,” and does it hide my IP address?

Browsing in Incognito (or “private”) mode simply means that any pages you visit in that window are erased (or forgotten) when the window is closed. For example, if you share a home computer with your partner, and you’re shopping online for a birthday present for them, doing so in an incognito window would be a good way to ensure the present stays a surprise. Basically, Incognito mode hides your browsing activity from other users on your device.

But Incognito mode doesn’t hide your info from websites, advertisers, your internet service provider (ISP), or Big Tech companies. Even in incognito, Google and others can still track you. Incognito does not hide your IP address.

How does Big Tech use my IP address to track me?

Although first-party cookies are discarded at the end of every browsing session, third-party cookies can track your browsing behavior from site to site, and across multiple browsing sessions. These cookies—and thus the trackers behind them—can identify your device IP address, which allows them to build a profile of your online habits. Google and other advertisers can then deploy targeted ads based on this profile. Your IP address is one among many personal data points online advertisers and other Big Tech can collect; it helps them identify who you are and what you do online.

Are there alternatives to incognito? How can I hide my IP address?

Unless your browser can conceal your IP address, it’s not hiding your online activity and thus can’t be considered private. This means that Google Chrome’s Incognito mode, for example, is nowhere near the same as a true privacy browser like Brave.

Chrome isn’t a private browser, and Incognito isn’t a privacy hack. It just hides your browsing history from other people who might share your computer or phone. And while you could install an ad or tracker blocking extension from the Chrome Web Store, it won’t be native (built-in). Browser native solutions are still much more reliable and secure.

Chrome’s Incognito mode doesn’t hide your IP address. The best way to tell this? You’ll still see ads in a Chrome Incognito tab. If you see regular web page ads, you’re still getting tracked.

By contrast, Brave is a truly private browser that blocks all third-party ads & trackers by default, and upgrades your Internet security to HTTPS whenever possible. It also blocks third-party trackers that fingerprint you using your IP address. With Brave, your browsing behavior is hidden from Big Tech: you stay anonymous regardless of whether you’re in a “regular” or incognito (private) window.

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