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Privacy mode is a setting on web browsers that helps cover up a computer user's activity while browsing the web. This setting gets rid of data and web history information on a user's computer and prevents accessed websites from tracking a user's identity and Internet activity. Browsers with privacy mode settings include Google Chrome®, Internet Explorer® and Firefox®. Privacy mode can also be called incognito mode, stealth mode, or private browsing, and may include the ability to alert the user when a website is tracking his information. Users can enable the privacy setting on their browsers to cover their tracks when visiting sensitive websites.
A web browser is a software program offering a user interface designed to let the user access web pages through an Internet connection. While using a browser, some web activity needs to be recorded for a website to properly function. This information is particularly important when accessing websites that require a user to log in to use the service. Small files called cookies are placed on a computer to keep a login active until the user removes the cookie or closes the session. One type of cookie, called a tracking cookie, records a user's information and browsing activity.
When a user accesses the Internet through a web browser, there are many opportunities for a user to have his personal information recorded. Each website he visits records information about his Internet protocol (IP) number, type of operating system, and type of browser, to track the web user's activity from afar. This information is usually used to track the popularity of a page and identify the paths the user took while browsing.
Privacy mode features include blocking a user's computer from recording the user's web history. A browser's privacy mode can also be used to keep the browser from recording page information in the cache. The cache is a folder used to temporarily store browsing data that might need to be accessed multiple times during a browsing session. Storing temporary files on a computer helps reduce the need for repeatedly downloading data, speeding up the browsing experience.
Users who wish to bolster privacy without using privacy mode can often use manual controls within the browser to clear the cookies, cache, and web history. Some browsers have options that allow the user to automatically clear identifying web history when the browser is closed after use. One drawback to automatically clearing cookies and cache data is that the user will need to log in and download commonly used web pages every time he accesses each site.