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Experts argue for improvements to private browsing

02 March 2018 - 16:34 by Graham Miller

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Most consumers will be aware that their web browser of choice offers a ‘private’ mode which does not keep track of the sites they visit or store cookies once the window is closed.

This is ideal for people who want to carry out safe shopping online via a shared PC without anyone else knowing about their activities. It is all too easy for present-buying sessions to be rumbled by curious kids or partners.

However, security researchers at American university, MIT, have published a paper this week which claims that people are being misled by claims that ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ browsing modes are actually keeping them safe, according to the Register.

A number of identifying factors are still present and data can be cached in several ways, which is why the experts believe that site operators should do more to protect visitors who want to remain anonymous.

Admittedly this is quite a big ask and may be difficult to implement. But since retail sites are expected to be able to offer safe shopping online to every customer, it is not a significant stretch of the imagination to expect that this should extend to privacy as well.

The developers behind the browser software itself are also encouraged to do more to make private browsing live up to its name, or at least change the way that it is marketed, to avoid giving users a false sense of security.

A new framework known as ‘Veil’ is proposed in the paper to deliver an extra layer of protection so that people can browse freely without putting themselves at risk. This will eat into network resources a little, but its creators claim that this will not be a deal breaker when the potential benefits that are on offer are so significant.