Can an iPhone’s private browsing be tracked? (Explained)

Can an iPhone's private browsing be tracked (Explained)
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The value of protecting our privacy is becoming more and more understood. Although it seems like a lot of iPhone users believe private browsing to be the best way to remain anonymous online, is it so private? Sadly, no, it doesn’t. In actuality, it provides scant privacy protection from third parties desiring to monitor your internet activities.

Can private browsing be traced on the iPhone?

Yes, even though private browsing modes like Incognito mode in Chrome or Private Browsing in Safari do not store your browsing history, cookies, or cached files locally on your device, your internet service provider (ISP), employer (if you’re using a work network), websites you visit, and other third parties may still be able to see your browsing activity and IP address.

On iPhones, when you use the “Private Browsing” mode in the Safari browser:

  • It does not save your browsing history, search records, or AutoFill information on your iPhone after you close the Private Browsing windows.
  • However, your internet service provider, websites you visit, and other third parties can still potentially see your browsing activity, IP address, and location data.

So while Private Browsing in Safari on iPhone prevents data from being stored locally on your device, it does not make your browsing anonymous on the internet or not trackable by network providers, websites, advertisers, and other online trackers. Internet traffic can still potentially be monitored and tracked.

Some tips that can provide more privacy when browsing include using a reputable virtual private network (VPN) service, browsing with Tor, using privacy-focused search engines like DuckDuckGo, and deploying additional browser extensions or configs to block ads, trackers, and fingerprinting attempts. However, no method provides perfect anonymity, so it’s wise to be cautious about extremely sensitive activities online.

What Is and What Is Not Private Browsing?

You may surf quietly using Safari and Google web browsers, but how private are you? With an iPhone, private browsing stops your online activities from being recorded by the device, including your search history and cookies.

Moreover, private browsing disables the ability to autofill web forms and doesn’t keep any sensitive information like email addresses or passwords. Cookies and data tracking can be gathered during normal surfing. This enables certain service providers to learn more about you and your interests.

A browser’s ability to cache online data including usernames, passwords, and photos speeds up the process of entering into websites and automatically filling out forms. This frequently comes in quite handy and saves users from monotonous repetition. Your privacy, however, may be jeopardized by the keeping of this information.

Your cookies and data collection are the majority of the information that businesses use to enhance the functionality of their website or for marketing reasons. Also, third parties may purchase this data from you. Although the majority of these actions are harmless and not dangerous, if your information ends up in the wrong hands, it may be.

The private browser delivers on its promise to let you surf the web without having your search history, cookies, or other private data saved by your browser.

In essence, it works the same way as using a regular internet browser and then clearing your cookies and history afterward. This is the best option if you want to hide your online identity from others who will use or look at your phone, but it doesn’t do much to prevent outsiders from reading your outbound data.

Regrettably, the phrase “private browsing” is a little oversimplified. While it is excellent at preventing your browser from storing certain data and information on your phone, many people mistakenly believe that all of their data and traffic is fully untrackable. Most definitely not the case.

How to turn on or off private browsing mode on an iPhone?

To Turn On Private Browsing Mode:

  1. Open the Safari app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the Tabs button at the bottom right (it looks like two overlapping squares).
  3. Tap on “Start Private Browsing” at the bottom of the screen.
  4. A new private browsing window will open up indicated by the “Private” label at the top.

To Turn Off Private Browsing Mode:

  1. In the private browsing window, tap on the Tabs button again.
  2. Tap on the “Done” button at the bottom left.
  3. You’ll be prompted to confirm if you want to keep or close all the private browsing tabs.
  4. Tap “Close All” to exit private browsing mode completely.

Alternatively, you can just close out of the private browsing window(s) to exit the mode.

Some Key Points About Private Browsing on iPhone:

  • It won’t save your browsing history, cookies, or autofill information from the sites you visit.
  • However, downloaded files remain on your iPhone until deleted manually.
  • Existing logins to websites may get logged out when entering private mode.
  • Your employer or internet service provider can still potentially track your browsing activity.

How to check private browsing history on iPhone?

There is no way to directly check or view the private browsing history on an iPhone, as that’s the entire purpose of the private browsing mode – to not leave any browsing records behind.

When you use the Private Browsing feature in Safari on iPhone, it ensures that:

1) Websites you visit are not added to your browsing history.
2) No data is saved in the browser cache.
3) New cookies created in that session are not stored.
4) Existing cookies are not shared from your regular browsing session.
5) Search records and AutoFill information is not saved.

Once you close all the private browsing windows/tabs, everything from that private session is completely cleared and not stored anywhere on your iPhone.

So by design, Apple does not provide a way to access or check what sites were visited in a private browsing session, as maintaining that history would defeat the purpose of the privacy feature.

The only way websites from a private session could potentially be accessed is if you had a content monitoring/parental control app installed that recorded all internet traffic in real-time before it was cleared. But natively on the iPhone, there is no private browsing history to check.

Why You Might Still Be Tracked Despite Private Browsing and What It Doesn’t Do?

By using private browsing, you may prevent your device from automatically saving information about you, such as cookies or your search history. It is important to note that downloaded or bookmarked items and web pages will still be stored. The private browser will not keep things secret, and anybody may access them just as readily as they might with a standard browser.

Also, it’s crucial to shut off your secret browser after you’re done since if it’s running in the background, your hidden surfing session will continue.

Although private browsing hides your history and data from others, the data or traffic sent from your device can still be monitored because it is still not encrypted.

The records of your online activity will thus still be accessible to the network’s owners and your internet service provider if you are signed into a public network, such as at work or school.

Private browsing not only provides virtually nothing to protect your online anonymity, but it also doesn’t assist you in concealing your location. Websites may still tell where you are connecting from since the outbound communication is not secured. This implies that websites that are unavailable in your current location on ordinary browsers cannot be accessed using a private browser.

By using private browsing, the IP address of your phone and any data connected to it are still completely accessible to outsiders. Your online activities will still be visible to anyone watching the network traffic that you are utilizing.

Websites can still track your phone and your activity through their website even when cookies are not kept on your browser. These details are also accessible to the web servers that house the websites.

Whether you use private browsing or not, your network service provider can still see your internet behavior and data. Even when you are using private browsing, certain networks and devices have surveillance software installed that can record your online behavior.

Conclusion:

As you can see, using private browsing doesn’t offer much extra privacy. Private browsing is fantastic if you don’t want anyone using your phone to know what you’ve been doing online, but it doesn’t do much to prevent tracking of your browsing activities.

Some solutions are significantly more effective than the private browser or incognito mode if you want to keep your browsing hidden from everyone.

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About The Author

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Tutun Banerjee

Tutun Banerjee is an experienced software engineer and tech-savvy writer and blogger who is committed to share her wealth of knowledge. Beyond coding, she is passionate about writing and blogging, creating in-depth how-to guides that are understandable by people of all skill levels. Tutun, having lived and worked in the USA who is now living in India, is still involved in the technology industry through her website TechTeachs.com

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Tutun Banerjee

AUTHOR

Tutun Banerjee is an experienced software engineer and tech-savvy writer and blogger who is committed to share her wealth of knowledge. Beyond coding, she is passionate about writing and blogging, creating in-depth how-to guides that are understandable by people of all skill levels. Tutun, having lived and worked in the USA who is now living in India, is still involved in the technology industry through her website TechTeachs.com