If You Surf Incognito, You Still Leave Tracks

One of the benefits of doing online research is that you can be largely anonymous.  You are not logging into a fee-based database with a username or password, so at a high level, no one can identify you.  But do not confuse the privacy mode of your Web browser with the ability for Web sites to track your access.

Say you are doing some background research about a client, opponent, or witness.  You might be looking at Facebook sites, business sites, and other online sources.  When you select to use the privacy mode of your Web browser – called InPrivate on Internet Explorer, Private Browsing on Firefox, and Incognito on Chrome – you are obscuring your local identity, on the computer on which you are working.  These privacy tools mean that information created by your Web browser (like cached files or your research history) or by the Web sites that you visit (like cookies) is not saved on your computer.

At the same time, though, each Web site you visit is logging your visit and this information, known as Web site analytics, will note where you are coming from, time, pages visited, and much more.  Your Web browser privacy mode cannot interfere with the capture of this information, since it is happening entirely on a remote server.

There is one new tool you might consider using if you do research and it is important for you to avoid leaving a trail.  Google is providing a new add-on for all browsers that will block the Google Analytics tool from tracking your access to servers running the software.  It is a common Web site analytics product and you are probably visiting sites using it.  The new opt out tool is free but still in beta.  If that is the only analytics or logging tool used on a Web server, you can eliminate that track.  But if the server logs visits outside of Google Analytics, this add-on will not impact that tracking.

When you are online, they may not know that you are a dog, but you may still be leaving more clues about research than you would like.

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