It is a known fact in the cybersecurity industry that browsing anonymously is a must in today's internet environment. On the other hand, most people do not know exactly what anonymous browsing offers. Most people also find it difficult to distinguish between several 'private browsing' modes, the different types of privacy-focused browsers, and the little details that matter. It is key to know how to make use of the anonymous browsing feature in the different browser types, properly, for optimal results. We'll also cover the limitations of anonymous browsing for the benefit of the reader.

It is critical to understand anonymous browsing to stay safe and protect your right to privacy in the modern internet sphere today. There are dozens of reasons for applying anonymous mode to your browsing habits and internet practices. In fact, it is a very useful tool when it comes to internet privacy and safety. There are endless reasons why we all use the internet, which has become an indispensable tool in today's interconnected world. Billions of people are connected to the internet as we speak, and are using everything from social media, financial services, medical services, buying and selling goods, entertainment, data storage, etc. The issue is that, just like in the real world, all of these activities are also susceptible to privacy and data breaches by several parties.

So, let's take a look at what anonymous browsing is and how to use it properly for it to work how it is supposed to, which will significantly boost your personal privacy and safety online.

What is Anonymous Browsing?

Anonymous browsing, also referred to as 'Private Browsing' or 'Incognito Mode' (depending on which browser it is) is a certain privacy-focused browsing mode that most browsers incorporate today. This browsing mode is designed to safeguard your privacy and data while you browse online. Depending on which browser it is, as anonymous modes differ slightly from brand to brand, in this mode, your 'browsing history' will not be kept or stored. Furthermore, a good privacy-focused browser will reduce or completely eradicate your digital footprint with other options such as; anti-fingerprinting, third-party cookie-blocking, ad-blocking, HTTPS-everywhere, and even JavaScript blocking.   

Why Use Anonymous Browsing?

When you browse the internet in the default out-of-the-box modes in commonly used browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox, you will leave traces of your online browsing activities. Think of these traces as little breadcrumbs that illuminate your path that can be followed or monitored by anyone wishing to do so. Just like anything else in life, online data can be misused in an unauthorized or malicious manner. Now, this data does not have to be intercepted by malicious cybercriminals looking to conduct identity theft, sabotage, extortion, or scams. There are ad agencies and data collection agencies out there that are not inherently malicious, who spy on your browsing information to target you. Furthermore, these institutions will collect your data without your consent and track your preferences. Even still, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and corporate and government espionage is also something to consider when it comes to your privacy.

Most folks think that using an 'anonymous' browsing mode will make them invisible on the network. This is completely untrue because to be completely invisible there are different steps to take in addition to using privacy-focused browsers such as connecting via a premium VPN or Virtual Private Network. However, anonymous modes do delete the records of your browsing, erase cookies, and have other useful blocking features as discussed above. Anonymous mode does not hide your browsing activity (referring URLs) from websites as well as authorities.

How to Properly Use Anonymous Browsing

Whether it is Google Chrome's/Brave Browser's 'Incognito Mode', Mozilla Firefox's 'Private Browsing Mode', Microsoft Edge's 'InPrivate Mode' or Safari's 'Private' mode (to name the established ones), the settings you need to check, understand and apply will not differ much between the browsers. Within any of these browsers, in the settings/privacy section, you must find a good balance between balance and functionality. This means not restricting the settings so much that websites stop functioning (blocking JavaScript completely, for example.) It is recommended that you apply 'strict' measures for fingerprinting, third-party cookie blocking, ad-blocking, and to set the search history to 'delete on exit.'

As far as the limitations of anonymous modes go, the issue is that they can be impractical for workflow and signing into accounts. If you use a lot of email accounts and need the browser to remember logins, the anonymous mode will make you input your login every time because it doesn't keep that information by default. The second limitation is that the anonymous mode is by no means a privacy panacea.

If You Need True Anonymity

If you require full anonymity, for whatever reason, an anonymous browser is a good starting point but there are a few more steps you can take to ensure true invisibility (to an extent.) You would need a premium Virtual Private Network running at all times connected to a cloaked server, adjustment of your system time zone so that it reflects another town, and a VM or Virtual Machine running a virtual copy of your operating system. Anonymous mode is a starting point but combined with the above suggestions you can achieve a clean, mostly invisible online presence away from the prying eyes of cybercriminals, ISPs, and surveillance.