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Private browsing doesn’t hide your browsing activity – research

Always browse with caution

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Many people think that private browsing modes guarantee extra safety and privacy from potential snoopers and other malicious actors. However, this is far from the truth. If you’re not careful, third parties can still know your browsing activity even when you are using your browser’s private browsing mode.

Private browsing, with an asterisk

Researchers at VPNOverview checked some of the popular browsers and analyzed how much browsing data leaks when using private browsing modes. These popular browsers include the Google Chrome with its “Incognito Mode”; the Apple device-exclusive Safari with “Private Mode”; the up-and-coming Microsoft Edge with “InPrivate”; and of course, the reliable Mozilla Firefox with “Private Mode”.

For each of these browsers, the researchers analyzed what browsing data does their private browsing modes hide. They also analyzed what browsing data can still be looked up by others on each browser’s respective modes.

The biggest takeaway from the research is that all private browsing modes are good enough for hiding your browsing history and files that you downloaded. Some browsers go the extra mile to keep you protected as you browse the web. Firefox, Edge, and Safari all have tracking protection that blocks intrusive trackers as you browse the web.

Cookies are one area of concern when browsing privately. Most websites use these to provide sign-in functionality and more, but they can also track you as you browse other sites on the internet. Fortunately, browsers don’t keep these cookies as you exit your private browsing session.

However, private browsing isn’t foolproof. The same researchers found that all private browsing modes fall short of hiding browsing activity from third parties. Internet service providers or whoever runs the network that you’re connected to can still see what you are browsing online. The same goes for the websites that you visit and sign in to, which can even know your exact location if you’re not careful enough.

What’s saved: IP address, bookmarked websites, and more

The reason why these third parties can still see your browsing activity is due to IP addresses. Remember, each device connected to the internet all have their own unique IP addresses. Devices have these addresses so they can send and get content from web servers. Relying on private browsing will not stop your computer from giving away your IP address to third parties such as the website you visit.

Then, there are also other browsing activities that get saved even in private browsing. Websites bookmarked during a private browsing session are saved even after browsing. While your browser won’t keep track of the files you downloaded, the actual downloaded files will remain on your PC. Not to mention, many browsers today offer extra features that will save any relevant data even when you use those features in private browsing.

As always, reading a browser’s fine print doesn’t hurt. However, users usually don’t have the luxury to scrutinize the privacy policy of each browser. There are things that you can do, however, to keep your browsing activity safe from the hands of third parties.

Use a VPN and an ad blocker

The best solution for most users is to download and use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs work by creating a proxy between your device and the servers that serve web content. Instead of your device directly connecting to different servers on the internet, your device connects to another server that does the job of connecting you to other servers. This has the effect of hiding your IP address from any third parties including your internet service provider.

VPNs are more popular than ever since they also let you access geo-restricted websites. For example, a VPN may let you browse films and shows on Netflix that aren’t available in your country yet.

There are many VPNs out there, so you can easily pick one to suit your needs. Examples of popular VPNs include NordVPN, SurfShark, TunnelBear, Private Internet Access, and ProtonVPN.  However, you also need to be mindful of the VPN service that you may want to use. Not all VPNs are created equal, and there have been multiple examples of providers leaking sensitive data.

Using ad blockers can go a long way too in making sure that your browsing activity is safe from third parties. Ad blockers do more than just remove ads from most websites nowadays. They also block trackers that profiles and collects information such as device information and more as you browse different websites.

As mentioned above, Safari, Firefox, and Edge have built-in tracking protection so you can rely on these instead for blocking trackers. For those not satisfied with their browsers’ tracking protection, they can rely on established ad blockers such as uBlock Origin, AdGuard, AdBlock Plus, and the likes.

Private browsing doesn’t simply cut it

For many, private browsing is their go-to for doing sensitive work on the internet. As the researchers from VPNOverview have pointed out, however, your browsing activity can still be inferred even as you use your browser’s private browsing mode. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you can rely on VPNs and ad blockers for total peace of mind.

As always, be mindful of what and how you browse online. Remember, your browsing habits reveal a lot about you. Companies who buy and sell data for profit will always want to get a hold of your browsing data so it is better if you exercise caution online.

Apps

Ultrahuman: The essential app to get you through quarantine

Getting through isolation days through workout and meditation

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Taking care of our physical and mental health is very much important now more than ever. With everything that has been going on in the world, it’s not surprising that people are taking extra steps to advocate and practice self-care.

One way to do this is by adding good habits everyday and being disciplined to sustain these habits.

With self-care as one of their ultimate goals this year, Martynne and MJ decided to try Ultrahuman: an all-in-one fitness app that includes all the good habits they are currently incorporating in their lives — from workout to meditation.

For a few weeks, they put the app to a test and this is their verdict:

Meditation

Martynne: I am a huge advocate of meditation and it has been a life-changing practice for me, as someone who finds a hard time focusing and being in the present.

Ultrahuman has a wide range of course options that can match a specific mood or emotion. One of my personal favorites is the Managing Anger course, which helped me take a step back, consolidate my feelings and give compassion to myself throughout the process.

The Singles option with one-time meditation tracks helped me become more mindful and grounded whenever I feel overwhelmed in the middle of a workday. The productivity course, on the other hand, kept my eyes glued to my laptop screen until I finished what I needed to do.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, though, is the visuals seem basic to me, and the “dark” interface is much more fitting for the workout option.

Workout

MJ: When gyms are closed and home workouts aren’t fun anymore, how do you remain committed to your fitness goals? That’s what Ultrahuman did: Filling the gap by providing fun workouts and challenges that you can do in a span of weeks. It’s similar to how Nike Training Club presents their videos albeit more personalized.

The Ultrahuman app comes with guided videos from renowned trainers, and watching their instructions during your exercises felt like having a live session with a personal trainer. Unlike most fitness apps that offer video-on-demand workouts, Ultrahuman remembers that we are all beginners, offering a collection of videos through challenges that suit different levels.

After living a sedentary lifestyle, I knew I have to ease up when working out again. The app did wonders in helping me stay active by gradually increasing the difficulty of my challenges, without straining my body or having myself complain about how difficult a certain workout routine is.

Sleep

Martynne: There was an instance that I had a bad case of insomnia and I needed something to put me to sleep.

I tried listening to Ultrahuman’s Bedtime Stories and it reminded me of the sleep podcasts I used to listen to on Spotify.

The voices are relaxing, and the stories come with meditation and sound effects, but I realized I can be impatient with slow stories. I resorted to the app’s soundscapes and brain music, and they helped a lot to relax my brain and finally shut my eyes off.

I don’t exactly know what’s the science behind brain music, but they really work sometimes.

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You can now buy and sell bitcoin, ethereum within the Venmo app

You can’t pay with crypto though

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Cryptocurrencies are the most trending topic right now, and everyone wants to be a part of it. Well, PayPal-owned peer-to-peer money transfer app Venmo has rolled out a new platform that’ll let users directly buy or sell the cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin, within the app.

With more than 70 million active users, the app serves as a perfect destination for more users. They can hold a stake in cryptocurrency starting with as little as US$ 1. They can also share their acquisition of digital currency on their feeds.

According to the payments company, more than 30 percent of Venmo customers have already started purchasing cryptocurrency or equities. And 20 percent of those customers started doing so during the pandemic.

The Venmo app is straightforward to use, and everyone is habituated with it. Hence, it is easier for folks to get on board the cryptocurrency train without worrying about complex tools.

The announcement did not say anything about paying for goods or services with cryptocurrency, but that ability could come to Venmo later. Customers will choose between four types of cryptocurrency — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash.

PayPal recently announced it would let users pay for goods at checkout using cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, Tesla said it would accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. With wider acceptance on mainstream services, cryptocurrencies are become easier to grab for everyone.

Venmo is rolling the new crypto features gradually, starting today. They should be available to all customers “within the next few weeks.”

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Spotify will now let you download music on your desktop

You can finally play songs while working offline

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One of the biggest updates to arrives for premium members on Spotify is the ability to download music on your laptop or computer. While this has always been a must-have feature on mobile phones, it wasn’t extended to a full-fledged PC.

Music streaming has taken over the world, and Spotify is leading the market. Streaming lets you listen to anything within a tap, so you never have to download songs via pirated sites or torrents. But the biggest problem with Spotify was — you can’t download songs for offline playback on your computer.

The hurdle is now gone, and you’ll never have to think of piracy or a legal alternative anytime soon. Just fire up Spotify’s free desktop app, and you’re good to go. Similar to the mobile UI, you can choose to keep an album or playlist offline. It’ll download all the tracks and be ready for you whenever you need them.

While this may seem like a minor addition that should’ve been implemented long ago, it technically isn’t. Only the desktop app supports it, and you can’t access it via the website player.

Spotify redesign

Spotify is also rolling out a redesign for the web and desktop app that looks similar to the mobile app. The move was aimed to improve the app’s navigation, add new features, and make the experience uniform across platforms or devices.

The old search bar is now relocated and toned down visually and sits in the left menu section. The “Made For You,” “Daily Mix,” and more playlists now sit within your library section. The Recently Played tab showed playback history up to three months ago.

If you’re a playlist fanatic, there’s now an option to add a description, upload your own images, and drag-drop apps within existing playlists. The new update is aimed at improving your discoverability, in turn offering more opportunities to curators. The hybrid manul-AI setup gets perfectly tuned to understand your taste and offer the most relevant curations.

Read Also: Spotify launches Car Thing, a voice-controlled music player for cars

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