Use incognito mode outside of your browser

While it’s not as private as you might think, using incognito or private mode in your web browser does have its advantages: it temporarily pauses tracking your web history and doesn’t log any data. data you enter, such as your credentials and personal details.

Whether you don’t want anyone to know you’ve been looking for a potentially embarrassing health issue or are buying a gift for someone else in secret, incognito mode can help.

What you might not know is that there are several apps other than your browser that also support this private untracked mode. If you need to temporarily go about your business without leaving a trace, here’s what you need to do.


There are good reasons why you might want YouTube to remember what you are watching. Saving the videos you clicked improves your recommendations and makes it easy to get back to that hilarious sketch clip you enjoyed weeks ago. However, there may be clips that you don’t want to appear.

[Related: Why YouTube is hiding dislikes on videos]

To temporarily switch to incognito mode in the mobile app, tap your profile picture (top right), then choose Activate private browsing. You’ll then start browsing on a blank slate, with new recommendations and no viewing history. To return to normal, press the incognito button (top right) and select Disable private browsing.

You won’t find an incognito mode available on YouTube on the web, but in your browser you can simply open the video platform in an incognito tab. Note that if you are a subscriber to YouTube Premium, the ads will appear when you are in incognito mode.

Google maps

Google is obviously enthusiastic about going incognito because the mode is also available in Google Maps. This is useful if you need to find places or plan trips without leaving any traces, or if you don’t want to affect the recommendations the app gives you on where to go.

If you’re using the mobile app, tap your profile picture (top right), then choose Activate incognito mode. Your personalized recommendations and quick links to places like your home address will disappear and the app won’t log anything you do in this mode. To exit, press the incognito mode button (top right) and choose Disable incognito mode.

As with YouTube, you won’t find this option built into Google Maps on the web, but you can just open the site in a browser tab set in incognito mode instead. You can still search for location information and get navigation directions, but you can’t leave reviews, save locations, or view your location history.


Your listening history is displayed in a few places on Spotify. The app shares it with any friends you’ve connected on the platform, for example, and your recently played artists also show up on your public Spotify profile.

To listen to songs without this automatic sharing and connection, start a private session. On mobile, tap Homepage, the gear icon and turn the Private session turn on the switch. On the desktop app, click the drop-down arrow (top right) to find the switch. To end a private session, simply retrace your steps and flip the switch in the other direction.

If you don’t turn them off manually, private sessions end when you restart the Spotify app or “after a long period of inactivity”, although the exact duration is unclear. The company also claims that private sessions “may not influence your music recommendations,” which is also annoyingly vague.


While Instagram doesn’t have an incognito mode as such, you can prevent your friends from seeing when you’re actively online. Tap your profile picture (bottom right), then the menu button (top right), then Settings and Private life. To select Activity status and turn off the View activity status option.

It also means that you won’t be able to see other people’s activity status on Instagram in places like the direct message chat list for example, so keep that in mind. Change View activity status go back to to return to normal.

You can’t do much on Instagram without being signed in, but you can open profile photos and individual web posts by following the links to them. If you’re connected online, open them in an incognito window in your browser.

Other applications

You can’t go incognito mode on Twitter, but you can at least scroll through the platform in your web browser without signing in. You’ll easily see posts and media, but you won’t be able to interact with the tweets or the people posting them. The same is true to some extent on Facebook, although most of the content is not made public.

[Related: The government won’t protect your internet privacy, so here’s how to do it yourself]

As for video streaming services, unfortunately none of them offer an incognito mode. However, you can change your viewing history and delete items as needed. On Netflix on the web or mobile, click your profile picture (top right), then Account, your name and See beside Activity display. Click the Hide button (right) to remove an item from your recording. It will not appear as recently viewed and will not affect your recommendations.

Other video streaming apps have similar options if you delve into your viewing history in settings. They all now support profiles, so your viewing folder doesn’t have to be mixed up with the rest of your family or whoever you share a place with.

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