Here’s What People Really Use Their Browsers’ Incognito Modes For

Google Chrome’s “incognito” function (or the “InPrivate” function, if you’re a Microsoft Edge fan) is a handy way to browse the internet: You can access whatever sites you’d like without leaving them in your browser history. But what do people want to do that for? The publicly displayed answer is often the innocent need to find a birthday present. The privately held assumptions tend to go unspoken.

Now, thanks to a survey from SEO and digital brand tech company SearchDex, we finally have some hard data on the subject. Here’s a variety of reasons why U.S. internet goers have opted to use their incognito browsers, along with the percentage of respondents who did so.

Bank Accounts – 21 Percent

The top reason: People didn’t want to leave their bank account information in their browsing history. Not a bad move.

To Research and Buy Gifts – 14 Percent

There it is. The second most cited reason is birthday gifts. The people have spoken.

To Watch Embarrassing Movies and TV Shows – 13 Percent

A notable chunk of people enjoy TV shows that are a little embarrassing. Maybe they just don’t want Entourage in their history.

To Download Confidential Work Documents – 12 Percent

Here’s another instance of personal information being shifted to the incognito browser. More on that in a second.

Check Social Media Accounts – 11 Percent

I use this a lot, personally. If I’m logged into one Twitter account and want to check up on another one without logging out of the first, this is a handy trick.


One takeaway from this survey? Many people are likely still unclear on just what an incognito tab does.

The fact that people turn to incognito browsers when they’re checking their bank account and downloading sensitive information hints that they may believe they are staying safe from hackers and avoiding whatever the online version of a paper trail is. But while their search history and cookie data won’t store the information, it still remains available to those who have the access needed to find it.

As Google tells you every time you open an incognito tab: “Going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.”

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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