There are a lot of misconceptions about browsing the web in 'incognito' mode, researchers say
Researchers with the University of Chicago and the Leibniz University of Hanover recently published the results of a study that included 450 participants. It found that many participants thought "incognito mode" or "private mode" in a web browser protected their online activity much more than it does.
If you're unfamiliar with private or incognito mode, here's a bit of background: typically, browsers suggest that using that option, which is accessible through the menu bar on most modern web browsers, won't track some of what you do online.
Google's Chrome web browser, for example, says that it doesn't save your browsing history, cookies and site data or information entered into forms. This doesn't mean that data — such as the websites you visit — isn't available to your school, employer or internet provider. Google warns as much when you start using incognito mode.
Despite this, lots of people seem to believe these options in web browsers can do much more than they actually do.
Here are some of the misconceptions highlighted in the report:
The study also suggests that 56.3% of participants incorrectly believed that browsing in private mode would hide your search history, since Google could still log a user's search and save a copy of that query online, not necessarily on your computer. I tried to replicate this in Chrome and found that a search for "How tall is Shaquille O'Neal?" wasn't logged by Google or on my local computer.
It's possible that's due to some of the changes Google has made to follow GDPR guidelines in recent months. CNBC reached out to the authors of the report for clarification on that part of the report.
If anything, the research shows that there are a lot of misconceptions about what's logged and what isn't when you're using incognito or private mode on a browser. It's probably safe to assume that what you're viewing online can be found or viewed by others, especially if you're on a work or school network or downloading files.