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Staying "incognito" in the New Year

happy new year private incognito
happy new year incognito

2023 sure was a busy year for cybercrime. From the hacks at T-Mobile and 23andMe to critical infrastructure in Guam and the Ukranian military. But those are all really big and far away problems that most of us have a hard time relating to. What about the under-the-radar 4-year long class action lawsuit Google settled just yesterday about how they are still spying on users browsing in "Incognito" mode.

So what's going on here?

You would think that using Chrome in “Incognito” means that what you're searching for and viewing won’t be traceable. Nope, it's a deception. It turns out Google still tracks everything, recording who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet — regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities "private." They're more thorough than even George Orwell could have imagined.

What do you recommend?

There are some legitimate use cases for browsing the internet without being tracked, such as using a public computer, being able to sign-into multiple accounts, avoiding unwanted cookies and tracking that other websites use to monitor your browsing habits and online shopping and travel booking, which often charge different prices based on your browsing history. If you've ever had flight prices go up after repeated searches in a short period, that's what's happening.

For now, a good alternative is to use the Firefox browser in Private Browsing mode. This mode blocks tracking cookies by default and erases your browsing history, cookies, and online information from your computer when you close the browser window.

Firefox offers more privacy than Chrome but it will not make you completely anonymous on the internet. Your Internet provider and employer can still gather information about the pages you visit, even when using Private Browsing mode and it won't protect against keyloggers or spyware that may have infected your computer.

For more privacy features beyond what Private Browsing offers, consider using a VPN service and check the settings within the Firefox browser itself to maximize your privacy. Here's a great guide on how to do this from NordVPN.

Unfortunately the Internet isn't free - the data accumulated about you is what's being tracked, bought and sold. Hopefully these tips can keep you a little safer in the New Year.

Stay safe out there.


New Friday Funnies

What do Alcoholics call New Year’s Eve? Amateur night.


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