Monday, January 12, 2009

Private Browsing

The ACLU's blog had a recent post on How Private is Private Browsing. While not directly related to genealogy, those who use shared computers at libraries or genealogical societies may be interested. Or, of course, if you share a computer at home and want to hide your browsing activities from family.
‘Tis the season for private browsing, or so it seems. Apple’s Safari Web browser led the pack in introducing a “private browsing mode” in 2005; in recent months, the other browsers on the market have finally followed suit, with Google’s recently-released Chrome and beta versions of Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer adding similar features.

What does “private browsing” mean, however? For the most part, these “private” modes are designed to protect your privacy only vis-a-vis other users of the same computer, whether you’re at an Internet cafe or just trying to avoid letting your partner know what you’re doing with their laptop (which earned these features the moniker “Porn Mode”). But do these “private” modes prevent Web sites from identifying you and tracking your actions? If so, how, and how effectively?
The article has a detailed answer to that question, and shows where the functionality of the browsers differ, helping you to choose which one offers the better private browsing for your needs. Of course, you may be limited to the options on the shared computer, but often libraries will have multiple browsers installed, so you will have a choice.

[Note: The ACLU blog post links to the main sites for Microsoft IE and Mozilla Firefox. I have linked directly to the pages with the beta download, since the non-beta releases don't have private browsing yet.]

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