How to Cover Your Tracks Every Time You Go Online

Venture online nowadays and your presence is immediately logged and tracked in all manner of ways. Sometimes this can be helpful—like when you want to see new movies similar to ones you've watched in the past—but very often it feels invasive and difficult to control.

Here we're going to show you how to cover some of those tracks, or not to leave any in the first place. This isn't quite the same as going completely invisible online or encrypting every single thing you do . But it should help you sweep up most records of your online activity that you'd rather disappear.

Go Incognito (or Private)

Browsing in incognito mode can give you some protection on the web.

Courtesy of Google via David Nield
The easiest and simplest way to browse the web with fewer digital footprints is to open up an incognito window, as Chrome calls it. On Firefox and Safari it's a "private" window, and on Edge it's called InPrivate, for some reason. Using an incognito window means none of your browsing history gets saved in the browser's logs; that's why you can't bring back a tab you've accidentally closed in incognito mode, because your browser has already forgotten all about it.

Any searches you've run are forgotten as well, and no cookies—little files that sites and advertisers use to track your wanderings across the web—are saved on your computer.

A word of warning though: If you log into sites like Google, Amazon, Facebook and so on, they will record your activities, incognito mode or not. If you sign into Amazon and start searching for lamp shades, you'll see them promoted the next time you sign into Amazon. Files downloaded in incognito mode are kept, and so are any bookmarks you've saved.

Remember, too, that incognito mode may keep your browsing history a secret on your device, but your employer or internet service provider can still very much see what sites you go to even if it's in a private tab.

In all four of the browsers we've mentioned, Shift+Ctrl+N on Windows or Shift+Cmd+N on macOS will open an incognito or private window. You can carry on browsing in both incognito and normal browser windows, but be careful not to get them mixed up.

Use a VPN

VPN tools add an extra level of privacy and track-covering.

Courtesy of Google via David Nield