[TECH QUESTION] Does Google track searches while in Private Browsing mode?

Question: Does Google track my searches while I’m in Private Browsing mode?

This question actually comes from an incoming search. Since someone found the site by searching for the question, I felt it was only right that I answered it.

In short, no, Google does not track your searches while you are in Private Browsing mode. A more thorough answer would also include a “yes, they do”. Private Browsing (Firefox) or Incognito (Chrome) basically uses an empty profile. It essentially just ignores your saved logins, cookies, site preferences, and any other settings you have. It will also promptly erase anything that is gathered during the session when you either close the browser or exit Private Browsing mode. While you are in the Private Browsing session, the browser acts normally. It does not mask your identity in any way on the internet other than not using your saved login information, cookies, or cache.

During the session, it will still send the usual basic information, which is essentially harmless unless you are doing something malicious, in which case, it allows authorities to track you down. That’s not really the point here though. The basic information sent is simple things like what browser and operating system you are using and your IP address. Since this is the case, Google does track what the IP address is searching for, not you as a user. This part is actually mandated by the government in the event they need to track someone down. As long as you are not a terrorist of some sort, there is no harm to you by Google obtaining the basic information.

This information is not solely used by Google though. Website owners also use the basic information. An example of this is here on DHDaily. Because of the Google Analytics data I receive, I know that the majority of the visitors to this site use Firefox on Windows and live in the US. That is why, after a certain point, I started focusing more on Firefox and Windows oriented articles. There was also a large enough portion of people with non-English native languages to convince me to start using a plugin to translate the site. So, the information is used to help provide better and more appropriate information.

Back to the big “no”… The searches you do while in private browsing are not logged to your Google account in any way. It will not show up in your search history or even search suggestions. This is because it doesn’t use your existing login, cookies, or cache and erases the generic information once you leave Private Browsing. As far as your computer and account are concerned, you were not there. On the server-side, the basic information is probably stuffed somewhere in a log that will most likely not be looked at with human eyes unless it involves a criminal activity.

If you have anything to add to this, let us know in the comments below. If you have a question you would like to have answered here on DHDaily, send it through the contact page linked at the top of every page.

Posted by: Josh @ 9:00 am August 15, 2011