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Chrome’s ‘Incognito’ – does it really work?


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#1
Guest_James (Jim) Hillier_*

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Google Chrome includes a 'privacy' mode (Incognito) which is claimed to enhance privacy when browsing the net….the question is, does it really work? The answer is yes and no. Yes, it is an improvement over Chrome’s standard browsing mode and no, it does not help maintain privacy in any new or significant areas.
Confused? Then please read on:

This is what Google has to say about browsing in “Incognito” mode (IE8’s “InPrivate” is very similar):

“Pages you view in this window won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window.”

That’s it! It’s a pretty short list of ‘won’ts’ and really offers no more than if you manually clear private data at the end of each session. Certainly nothing more than Firefox’s ‘Clear Private Data’ option which has been part and parcel of that browser ever since I can remember.

One aspect for concern is Google’s lack of any specific mention on how Incognito affects the browser cache. The whole concept would be pretty pointless unless Incognito clears the cache on exit, yet I can find no confirmation of that.

In summary, I would not be placing too much confidence in these features enhancing your privacy;
No, it will not prevent sites from logging your visits.
No, it will not prevent your ISP from monitoring your browsing if and when they so choose.

Best to look at these privacy features not so much as an enhancement but a way to automatically clear private data; browser history, search history, browser cache (hopefully?) and cookies at sessions end.

#2
marko

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Sounds spot on to me Jim, I've never really been that concerned about my browser privacy as it's usually the case that most browsers do come with pre-defined and default settings that will clear out old cache, etc, regularly anyway but for those who are particularly concerned there is always the manual method as you mention, and I too am a Firefox freak, although I have to admit I feel firefox isn't the browser it used to be and where it blew explorer out the water at one time I feel it's only just managing to keep it's head above the water, but that's for another topic me thinks!.
Cheers
Marko
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#3
Guest_Guest_*

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Very short minded to not even investigate how Chrome handles the cache and just make some quick conclusion based on the info-message ...
Check this link:

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#4
marko

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If Chrome stores it's cache in RAM, all good and well, if not it's traceable - and as Jim says ...

No, it will not prevent sites from logging your visits.
No, it will not prevent your ISP from monitoring your browsing if and when they so choose.

Not exactly "Incognito" at all, more of a "hide your online activity from your spouse"!.
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#5
Guest_James (Jim) Hillier_*

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Very short minded to not even investigate how Chrome handles the cache and just make some quick conclusion based on the info-message ...
Check this link:

Moderator Note
Better still, you check this link: http://www.freewarebb.com/FreewareBB-Rules-t8.html


I did try and investigate how Chrome handles the cache but could not find any definitive answers from Google at that time...I thought I made that clear.

Anyway that is merely a side issue, the point I was making back then was, in my opinion, Incognito suggested a higher level of privacy than it actually delivered. Nothing more than other browsers offered via automatic deletion of history, cookies, private data, etc.

This original topic was posted in June, 2009 and all references to Incognito settings and associated comments were relevant at that time. The situation may, of course, have changed in the interim.

If that is the case and the situation has indeed changed you would be better served by politely pointing that out rather than lambasting anyone who dared to be mildly critical.

The following is a direct quote from a comment, posted around that time, on the official Chromium site:

"Incognito mode should use a separate HostResolver with its own HostCache.
That way in-memory state gathered by incognito mode doesn't outlive closing the final incognito window.
Right now the DNS entries gathered by incognito mode will show up in about:net-internals even
after closing the last window, since it is using the same host cache."


Here is another:
"I think that the cache should be deleted after closing the incognito
window, regardless of whether the main Google Chrome process is running.
The old incognito cache should not be viewable.
What happens instead? As long as the main chrome.exe process is running, one can see the cache of old incognito sessions."


There are many more similar comments, suggesting that the cache was not being cleared and therefore was recoverable at that time.

You are obviously a fan of Chrome, that is fine....it is a very good browser. If you disagree with something written here then collate some facts which confirm that opinion and present us with the evidence.

Submitting an alternative argument based on fact is a much better way of getting your point across than merely posting unjustified insults.

Jim

#6
marko

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That poster did offer a link to another article Jim, probably their own site, which gave information on how a 'friend' attempted to recover the Chrome cache after browsing via the incognito method and was unable to - it still didn't offer any conclusive explanation on how the cache actually worked - as I say, if the cache is stored in RAM it would be unrecoverable once that RAM was powered down but if it stores it on the HDD then it is recoverable, even if the best recovery program in the world can't find it, it doesn't mean it's not there, it just means the program can't locate it - believe me, if the powers that be had reason to check the hard drive they would find it in a heartbeat!.
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#7
Guest_James (Jim) Hillier_*

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Hey Marko - Thanks for that mate. Link or no link though, it doesn't really matter. Some 10 months back, when I first compiled the original article, there were lots of comments such as the two I quoted, suggesting that at that time the cache was not being flushed on exit and was therefore well and truly recoverable.

That may have changed by now and maybe not. Again doesn't really matter, it was the guest contributor's attitude which irked me.

Thanks again mate,
Cheers now....Jim

#8
Guest_Mike_*

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I'm pretty sure incognito wont delete the cache but it can be cleared easily by clicking the spanner symbol in the top right >options>under the hood>clear browsing data. The dns fetching service can also be turned off from this page