It seems simple enough, you Google your latest symptoms to see if your condition warrants a visit to the doctor or just some rest and relaxation.
Suddenly, you are inundated with ads from every pharmaceutical company under the sun. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but say you are in the market for a prescription, and you start receiving emails claiming to be from the medicine manufacturer with rebates.
You sign up for the rebate only to find out that you are the victim of the latest phishing scam. Now that’s a headache.
Why you want to keep your browsing history private
- If you’re sharing a computer with your family, you might want to keep information, no matter how benign, private — you don’t want inappropriate ads to pop up for your kids or grandkids
- Internet Service Providers (ISP) capture any data sent between your devices to wherever you connect to (i.e. your mobile phone to a drugstore website) – they can utilize it or sell it to third parties
- Third-party companies who have purchased your information from your ISP can now inundate you with ads or resell your private info to the highest bidder
- Hackers can snoop around and pick up bits of data from your internet activities to build a fuller picture of who you are and how to exploit you
How exactly do you keep your browsing private? Find below a list of ways to keep your private info, well, private.
Top 4 ways to keep your browsing history private
While most people assume utilizing the browser’s ‘private’ browsing features is the best way to keep your browsing history private, there are a handful of alternative options. It may be one of the simpler options presented below, but here are some other options and the pros and cons of each.
1. Use a VPN
VPN service providers, such as our top pick ExpressVPN (see our full review here) are the best ways to keep your browsing history private. Once activated it won’t store browsing history, metadata, traffic destination, or DNS queries. Because it encrypts your data, hackers have a harder time pulling together information to target you. VPN cloaks your IP address so your ISP can’t view what you’re viewing and sell that information to third parties.
Pros: Encrypts data and cloaks ISP so no one can really track or sell your data as you browse. For more information about how VPN helps you browse more privately, check out: The safest way to browse the web: VPN Browsing
Cons: You usually have to pay for a VPN service provider to reap the safety and security benefits. In Are free VPNs safe?, you can read about why it ‘pays’ to get a paid, premium VPN service.
Read more about our top VPN picks here: Best VPNs to keep your browsing private and secure
2. Turn on Private Browsing Mode
While private browsing options often labeled as ‘private window’, ‘incognito mode’, or ‘private tab’, will keep your browsing private with others sharing the same computer with you. It will prevent cookies from being installed, search records, browsing history, or downloads from being stored. It won’t keep your browsing information from third parties such as your ISP, employer, or school.
Pros: Keeps your local data and activities private from other users on the same device
Cons: Doesn’t prevent tracking and selling of your data
3. Use Secure Search Engines
Secure search engines such as Brave Search, Peekier, Qwant, and Startpage are great alternatives to private browsing mode.
Pros: Doesn’t collect or share your searches or log your personal information
Cons: Doesn’t provide the same variety or quantity of results that a regular search engine such as Bing or Google would
4. Clear Your History & Cache
Browsing history is composed of site URLs, cookies, cache file, download list, search history, etc. Most major browser gives users the ability to delete browsing history, clear their cache, and cookies as well as other data. You can usually find this option under ‘Preferences’, ‘Settings’, ‘ Privacy’, or ‘Clear Browsing’.
Pros: It’s a quick and easy way to clear data you don’t need floating around, especially with those who share the same device with you.
Con: It, however, doesn’t prevent that data from being completed deleted or recoverable. For instance, even if you ‘delete’ your cache images and files on your Explorer browser, while Windows deletes the directory file where those files and images reside, data regarding it still exists in the operating system. If your computer or laptop gets stolen or hacked, a perpetrator can piece together that information through recovery logs.
Our Top Recommendation for keeping your browsing history private:
While there are no foolproof ways to prevent your browsing history from becoming fodder for predatorily marketing companies and bait for eager hackers, the best remedy is prevention and a proactive stance.
Having a VPN service, such as ExpressVPN (see our full review here) will limit your data from floating around unencrypted and keep your activities under wraps from even your ISP. Having a strong anti-virus program like those listed in Best Antivirus Protection, will keep your device from being compromised even if you don’t maintain best practices such as clearing your browsing history.
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Have you utilized any of the above methods of keeping your browsing history private? If so, what’s worked or hasn’t? Tell us below!
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