Does Google Chrome’s “stealth mode “, FireFox’s “Private Browsing” or IE’s
“InPrivate” features count as anonymous web surfing?
No. Not even close.
These privacy modes do something completely different, perhaps even
something important, but they in no way deal with your anonymity as you surf
I’ll look at what they do, and perhaps as importantly, what they don’t.
What privacy modes do is actually very simple: they cause the browser to not keep history.
“History” means more than just the list of pages you’ve visited – it typically includes also auto-complete functions in the browser address bar, things you’ve searched for, form entries, password, cookies and your browser cache. Essentially anything that normally happens automatically that might leave a trace of where you’ve been browsing.
There are exceptions and risks.
Files you download, or bookmarks you create while in private mode will likely remain. You explicitly asked for them, of course.
Addons to your browser may, or may not, be aware of private mode, and may or may not continue to be privy to, or keep some kind of record of, what you’ve been viewing.
And as always, if you happened to have spyware on your machine, all bets are off. The spyware could be tracking anything, no matter what.
Here’s what it’s not…
It’s not changing what your requests and web surfing look like to the outside world.
The servers you contact still see you, at your IP address.
The networks you travel across still see your unencrypted data which can be sniffed, particularly at open Wifi hotspots
Basically anything that made it look like you to the outside world still looks like you.
There’s simply no anonymization related to private browsing mode. Private browsing protects your privacy from others who might look at your machine. It does not affect how you appear on the internet.