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Think Your Surfing Is Secret in Private Browsing Mode? Think Again


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A purportedly private browsing session.

A researcher at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany says many computer users mistakenly believe private browsing protects them against computer viruses, targeted ads, geolocation, and tracking by employers and governments.

Credit: Getty Images

Many computer users incorrectly believe that private browsing protects them against computer viruses, targeted ads, geolocation, and tracking by employers and governments, says Yasemin Acar at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany.

Although such privacy modes do stop browsers from saving the user's search history, login information, and cookies, they fail to properly explain their scope in the disclosure statement.

The researchers asked participants to read a disclosure statement for a fictional private browser called Onyx, then quizzed them about what protections it offered. The team found even after reading the statement, 23% of respondents incorrectly believed their government could not track their browsing history when in private mode, and 37% thought the same about their employer.

Acar says these findings suggest private browsers' disclosure statements should more plainly state their limitations, so users do not have a false sense of security.

From New Scientist
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