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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.

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Google’s Locked Folder can protect your NSFW photos

Protect everything with a password

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Where do you keep your secret photos? Though there are several options for users, the usual storage suspects don’t have the most robust protection against prying eyes. Google, after a Pixel-exclusive phase, is rolling out a password-protected folder feature for all Android users of Google Photos.

The feature will separate selected photos from the main library. Users can then put them inside a password-protected folder. They can also protect against invaders using a fingerprint. When protected, the selected photos won’t show up when scrolling anymore.

Users can toggle the feature on by going into the Locked Folder option in Utilities. Currently, the Pixel’s camera app can take photos and directly send them to the protected folder. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t work on other camera apps. At least for now, that is.

The feature does have its drawbacks. For one, protected photos are only locally saved. If you somehow lose your phone, those photos are lost forever or worse especially if a third party gets it for themselves.

Obviously, the Locked Folder has its more innocuous uses. But it’s definitely a way to hide NSFW photos.

Google initially launched the feature only for Pixel phones back in June. Of course, as most Android features go, the developers promised a more widespread rollout coming soon after. Well, that time is finally now. The feature is set to roll out sometime this fall.

SEE ALSO: Google starts rolling out Material You apps

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Next Android update is Android 12.1, not Android 13, rumor says

Just a minor update

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One of the highlights of the year is a new Android update. Like clockwork, Google updates the biggest mobile operating system in the world. It’s gotten so popular that the entire industry speculates on the codename each update is attached with even if the company stopped doing them years ago. The hype is there. However, Android users might have to taper their expectations next year. Instead of Android 13, Google might launch Android 12.1 next year.

Reported by XDA Developers, the rumor speculates that next year’s Android update will just be a minor one of the upcoming Android 12 this year. According to one of the publication’s recognized developers, Google attached an “sc-v2” tag for the next Android update, instead of “T” for “Tiramisu,” the internal codename for Android 13. For those who still follow the internal codenames for Android, “sc” refers to Snow Cone, the internal codename for Android 12. As such, it’s natural to assume that the next update is just Android 12.1, rather than Android 13.

It’s been a while since Google released minor updates in lieu of major updates. However, it’s no surprise. Android 12 is already a big update, relative to the past few updates. The update features a revamped design called Material You. Google can believably improve the new update more before launching a major one.

SEE ALSO: Android 12 is Snow Cone

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Google starts rolling out Material You apps

More coming this month

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There is no one more excited for Google’s upcoming products than Google itself. Though the company hasn’t officially launched its products yet, Google has persistently teased everything in the weeks and months leading to their debuts. Now, the company is slowly rolling out Material You apps ahead of the Android 12 launch.

Material You refers to Android’s design revamp for the upcoming Android 12 update. An evolution of Google’s smooth Material Design, the new design personalizes the user interface and the phone’s apps according to the user’s preferences. Android 12 is all about customization.

Of course, since the update also affects apps, Google is also rolling out apps that reflect the new design. Despite the lack of Android 12, the new apps are coming out ahead of time. Officially announced by Google’s Workspace blog, Google Drive will start the new push with its rollout starting today. After Drive, Google Meet will come out on September 19, and Google Calendar will launch on September 20. Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets have already rolled out a week ago.

The new apps will feature new navigation bars, floating action buttons, and a new font called Google Sans. The new font will make readability easier for smaller font sizes.

Android 12 is set to launch soon. Additionally, Google is already launching teasers for the upcoming Pixel 6 series featuring the new, in-house Tensor chipset.

SEE ALSO: Android 12 will make Chrome more colorful

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