Privacy Modes, most web browsers have them. Although they have different names, they basically do similar things. Google uses the term incognito function.
Since a majority of people use Google Chrome, I will be focusing there. However most of what I’m saying holds true for other privacy modes.
If you are unfamiliar with this function, please check out Google’s chrome help page
Google incognito allows you to not have your search history recorded.* This is beneficial in a number of ways, which include:
- Stopping all those annoying Auto-fill’s, every time you try and fill out form and saving your personal history being recorded if someone else has access to your device,
- preventing accidental saving of log-in credentials to accounts,
- testing websites, and most importantly (for an online researcher)
- performing “pure searches” that are not influenced by prior browsing history or networks or friends’ recommendations, which may weight and more highly rank certain results than others.
Why you should use it
The ability to perform “pure searches” is a must for anyone who is trying to find answers on the internet. Especially if a majority of your searches have similarly related topics. The reason being is that similar topics will require similar keyword searches.
Without getting too technical, Google makes a lot of assumptions about what it thinks you want to look for. They base this on your previous browsing history. If you keep using similar key words, Google starts to think that you want the pages you looked at before. This can get annoying. There is nothing worse than seeing the same website pop up in your search results over and over again when you are looking for new information.
Having the incognito function on is like having a fresh set of eyes when you have lost your car keys. It helps finds new information without having to look at the previously discovered information over and over again.
Why you should not to use it
Have you ever opened a new website and think I’ve seen this before? The biggest issue with the incognito function for an online researcher, is that it’s ability to hide your search history can be a hindrance when conducting some searches. Especially if you need to know if you have visited the site before.
Sometimes it is important or necessary to be able to see what you have previously discovered in other searches. Even though every website is different and unique, there can be a lot of similarities, in design and subject matter. After you’ve looked at 30 or more websites they start to look the same.
If only there was a way to tell, if you have previously visited been there or not? Well, guess what. There is. All you need to do is to turn the incognito function off. One of the best pieces of metadata which Google shows in its search results is; it will tell you if you have visited that page, when you have visited that page before**. Sometimes it will tell you the number of times you have visited it. This is a great way to determine if a search result is relevant to your particular search, or not.
So what does this mean? Is the incognito function good for searching or not?
The answer is: YES, and NO.
It really comes down to the nature of your searches. You are going need to think about what it is you are searching for:
- Use the incognito function: when you need to ensure your results are not biased from using similar keywords from prior searches across for different subject matters.
- Don’t use the incognito function: When conducting the same search over a number of days.
* Please note what the incognito mode (and other privacy modes) do is stop the recording of your browsing history on to your computer. This does not mean that you are anonymous. Each page you visit still recognises your IP address.
** There seems to be a time limit on this function, it has been my experience that this metadata does not show after 3 to 4 weeks. Therefore, it can only be effective if you are doing similar searches really close to each other.