Private Browsing in OS X


Sometimes you don’t want people to know what you are doing on the Web. Maybe it is someone’s birthday, and you want the gift to be a surprise, or maybe you would rather not have that website track your every move. Mac OS X users have several options to keep their Web browsing activities a little more private.


  • Private browsing allows Internet users to surf the Web without creating a search history or any saved information about the websites they visit. The aim is to allow for a level of privacy that may be useful when visiting places the user might not want others to know about. It does not provide a method to surf the Web anonymously, however. Web sites, ISPs and network administrators will still be able to track your Web-browsing activity.


  • The amount of privacy varies from browser to browser. Three major Web browsers for Mac OS X offer a private browsing option: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Mac OS X’s native browser Safari. In private browsing mode, Firefox does not store information on pages visited, text entries in searches and online forms, passwords and what you’ve downloaded, and it will not store cookies or cached page content. Chrome’s private browsing mode is called “Incognito Mode,” but it still stores cached page information after the browser window is closed. Safari allows for private browsing too, with the same features as Firefox.


  • If your goal is additional privacy to hide your identity from websites, consider the use of a proxy. A proxy works by sending your Web-browsing requests first to a proxy server, which forwards it on to the website you’re requesting. Your Mac will appear in the logs of the websites you visit as if it came from the proxy server’s IP address and not from your own.


  • Private browsing and proxies are not foolproof methods to conceal Internet activities. Even when using a proxy to visit sites, your ISP -- or even the servers in between routing your Internet traffic -- are still able to figure out your true identity in many cases. Sending unencrypted data through proxies runs the risk of it being captured for malicious purposes. Follow your ISP’s terms of use and any local laws when using these features and refrain from using proxies to send and receive personal information.

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