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If you have been using a virtual private network (VPN) to get access to geo-restricted or blocked content, we hope you’ve been keeping it on in general. While streaming content from around the world is a great benefit of a VPN, it is far from its most important benefit. Rather, a VPN is crucial for privacy and security.
A VPN keeps your online activity anonymous by routing your connection through an external server, thereby hiding your IP and encrypting your data. In a day and age where websites are unabashedly tracking your online activity, a VPN is necessary for the most basic level of security.
However, the latest lawsuit faced by Google proves that the need for a VPN is even more drastic than you may have thought. Here is what’s going on.
Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode
Are you familiar with Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode? I suspect that everyone reading this has answered yes. However, let’s take a brief look at exactly what it does so that we’re all on the same page.
Incognito Mode is a private browser that you can open in Google Chrome that does a number of things. It does not keep browser history. It does not store cookies or cache. It treats you as an anonymous user. This lets you browse websites freely, even those you don’t want others to know you are visiting.
Many people immediately assume that others use anonymous browsing only for lewd content. However, anonymous browsing also gives you the opportunity to look at sensitive information that your government may not want you to see, without the evidence being left on the browser. It can also clear the slate so that you can search for news and find unbiased results, rather than results tailored to opinions you already hold.
There are other, more mundane uses for Incognito browsing. There is some evidence that tickets for flights are priced according to your online profile. Searching anonymously gives you access to what prices may be aimed at other people.
It also makes it easy to use alternative login details on accounts you otherwise stay logged into at all times. In other words, your friend can use your incognito browser to sign into their own Facebook account, without having to worry about signing out later or about signing you back in.
With all of this in mind, what is happening with Google’s Incognito Mode that’s so alarming?
The Incognito lawsuit
The lawsuit accuses Google of tracking and collecting user data even while they use Incognito Mode. It states that this is in violation of wiretapping and privacy laws, because Google does not adequately inform users of this.
What is most alarming is that Google is only arguing that they are clear about Incognito Mode’s protections – that only the browser doesn’t keep history and data, whereas websites can.
To be fair to Google, they do provide this information every time you open an Incognito browser, stating that this is not some magical invisibility suit. Your data may still be available to websites, as well as your place of work and internet service provider (ISP). Any misunderstanding is more down to a lax attitude towards the risks of data tracking than any deception on the part of Google and other website browsers.
But the point still stands that if you have been using Incognito Mode with the assumption that websites will not be able to glean your data, you have been sorely mistaken.
Will a VPN help?
If Incognito Mode doesn’t hide your data from websites, will a VPN help? The good news is that a VPN will prevent websites from tracking your data. Since Google itself isn’t keeping your data, you can use Incognito Mode along with a VPN to get the protection you need.
If you are looking for an affordable VPN, the price of ExpressVPN is as little as $6.67 a month. That being said, ExpressVPN is one of the pricier options, although it is truly excellent. It will give you the protection you hoped for when using Incognito Mode, letting you be truly anonymous on the web. It will give you the protection you hoped for when using Incognito Mode, letting you be truly anonymous on the web. There are also several reliable VPN apps with a free trial. You will be able to test all the functions of the applications and choose which service suits you best.
You should be using a VPN whenever you use the internet, whether on your phone or computer. This lawsuit only brings to light just how important a VPN is in 2021.