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Lesson 12: Browsing Privately

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Browsing privately

Chances are you're already familiar with your favorite web browser. You might use it to make purchases online, fill out forms, or even research personal interests. However, while you're surfing the Web you may not realize that it is possible that your online activity is being seen by others. This is because your browser automatically saves a record of your browsing history, and many websites have the ability to track what you click on.

viewing browsing history using Chrome

In this lesson, we'll talk about two options you can enable to increase privacy while browsing: private browsing and Do Not Track.

Watch the video below to learn about private browsing.

Private browsing

You may be wondering why you would need to browse in private. You could choose this option when you're shopping for a gift, researching a sensitive subject (like a personal medical topic), or using a public computer (like at a library). Basically, it makes sense to enable private browsing anytime you want to keep your browsing history confidential.

Understanding private browsing

Private browsing only prevents your web browser from saving your browsing history. This means anyone else who uses your computer will not be able to see your online activity. Unfortunately, it doesn't guarantee security—your activity can still be tracked by websites. We'll talk more about tracking later in this lesson.

Turning on private browsing

Private browsing is available for most web browsers. Here, we'll show you how to enable private browsing in Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari (for Mac computers).

  • Microsoft Edge: Click the three dots icon to see Settings and more. Select New InPrivate window from the drop-down menu.
    selecting New InPrivate window using Microsoft Edge
  • Chrome: Click the three dots icon, then select New incognito window from the drop-down menu.
    selecting New incognito window using Chrome
  • Firefox: Click the More button, then select New Private Window from the drop-down menu.
    selecting New Private Window using Firefox
  • Safari: Click the File menu, then select Private Browsing from the drop-down menu.
    selecting New Private Window using Safari

Do Not Track

In case you weren't aware, websites have the ability to track what you click on. This is usually done to deliver targeted ads to you, but it can also be used for collecting data and making a site run smoother. Currently, browsers let you choose not to participate in this system by offering a Do Not Track option.

Understanding Do Not Track

Do Not Track asks each website you visit to not track your activities. It is similar to the national Do Not Call list. However, website participation in Do Not Track is voluntary, so some of the websites you visit may not honor the request. To learn more about how your browsing activity is tracked, visit our Internet Safety lesson on Understanding Browser Tracking.

Turning on Do Not Track

Web browsers generally place the Do Not Track option in the Privacy settings. By default, most browsers have this feature turned off. You will need to open your browser's privacy settings to enable it.

In Microsoft Edge, the Do Not Track option is located in Settings.

  1. Click the three dots icon to see more options. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
    selecting Settings from the More menu using Microsoft Edge
  2. Next, click Privacy, search, and services from the left-side pane.
    selecting Privacy, search, and services
  3. Then, scroll down to the Privacy section. Click the toggle switch to turn on Send "Do Not Track" requests.
    clicking the toggle to switch on Send "Do Not Track" requests
  4. A dialog box appears letting you know that a website can determine how they respond to the "Do Not Track" request. As mentioned before, a website could ignore your request since their participation is voluntary. Click the Send request button if you want to continue with sending "Do Not Track" requests.
    clicking Send request button
  5. Send "Do Not Track" requests is switched on.
    Send "Do Not Track" requests on

Enabling Do Not Track in other browsers

To view instructions for how to enable Do Not Track in Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, follow the links below:

Older versions of browsers may not support the Do Not Track option. You may need to update your browser to the most recent version.

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