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No matter which browser you prefer—Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, Opera, or any of the others—it will almost certainly offer an incognito or private mode, one which ostensibly keeps your web browsing secret. (Google Chrome still shows a hat-and-glasses icon when you go incognito, as if you're now in disguise.


Incognito or private mode does indeed keep certain aspects of your browsing private, but it's important to be aware of what it hides and erases from your computer or phone and what it doesn't. Once you understand exactly what these modes do in your browser, you'll know when they can be most useful.

What Incognito Mode Does

Perhaps the easiest way to think about incognito mode is that as soon as you close the incognito window, your web browser forgets the session ever happened: Nothing is kept in your browsing history, and any cookies that have been created (those little bits of data that log some of your actions online) are promptly wiped.

Cookies are what keep items in your Amazon shopping cart even if you forget about them for days, for example, and they also help sites to remember if you've visited them before—which is why you normally only get pestered to sign up for a site's newsletter the first time you arrive. You might notice if you visit all your favorite sites in incognito mode, you won't get recognized, and are then asked to sign up for a whole load of newsletters and special offers all over again.

Chrome attempts to explain how incognito mode works when you open up a private session.

Screenshot: David Nield via Google

This sort of anonymity is what incognito mode is good at—it's like starting again with a blank slate, for better or for worse. Try loading up Twitter or Gmail, and these sites won't automatically log you in as they normally do. For the same reason, incognito mode can sometimes be a handy way of accessing more free articles from a paywalled site (the site won't instantly identify you as someone who's been before, although many paywalled sites use other methods to figure that out).

Your browser won't remember where you've been, what you've searched for, or the information you've filled into web forms while you've been in incognito mode—it's as if Chrome, Firefox, or whatever browser you're using has its back turned until you close down the incognito mode again.

With browsers now so personalized, you're probably familiar with your frequently visited websites appearing as you type into the address bar or search box. Anything you've visited or searched for while in incognito mode shouldn't appear in these suggestions (with a few caveats, as we'll mention below). You'll notice in some browsers that you can't pull the normal trick of reopening a tab you've just closed while in incognito mode—your browser has already forgotten that you ever opened it in the first place.

All modern browsers come with a private or incognito mode of some description.

Screenshot: David Nield via Firefox

Incognito mode certainly has its uses: You can sign into multiple accounts at the same time, for instance, rather than signing in and out. It's also helpful when you need to run a few quick searches on sensitive topics—like health issues—that you don't want to show up in your browsing or search history in the future.

While all traces of your incognito activities will be gone as soon as you close these windows, this is true only as far as your browser and the device you're currently using are concerned. These days, tracking and data mining extends way beyond a single browser and a single device.

What Incognito Mode Doesn't Do

As soon as you log into any of your favorite sites in incognito mode—Facebook, Amazon, Gmail—your actions are no longer anonymous or temporary, at least as far as those services are concerned. Although cookies and tracking data are deleted when your private session finishes, they can still be used while the session is active, linking your activities between various accounts and profiles.

That means if you're signed into Facebook, for example, Facebook might well be able to see what you're up to on other sites and adjust its advertising accordingly, even in incognito mode. Blocking third-party cookies in your browser can stop this to some extent (Chrome even offers you the option when you open incognito mode), but such is the reach of ad networks and tracking technologies that it's difficult to stop it entirely.

Sign into any of your accounts and you can easily be tracked, even in private mode.

Screenshot: David Nield via Apple

Google has already been in trouble for this practice, though it's not alone. If you sign in to Google while using incognito mode, then your searches are once again being logged and associated with your account, assuming that's how your Google account preferences are set up—and Google is potentially also using its ad network and tracking technologies on other sites to keep tabs on you there too.

Even if you don't sign in anywhere, the websites that you visit can use various clues—your IP address, your device type, your browser—to figure out who you might be, and to tie this to other information that might already be associated with you. Certain browsers are fighting back against this type of tracking, called "fingerprinting," but it still goes on.

Any files you've downloaded in incognito mode remain on your system.

Screenshot: David Nield via Google

Incognito mode doesn't hide your browsing from your internet service provider or your employer, and it doesn't wipe out files you've downloaded. In other words, you need to think of it as a way of hiding your online activities from the particular browser on the particular device you're using, and from the other people using that device. When it comes to everything else, there are no guarantees.

The limits of incognito mode highlight just how hard it is to stay invisible on the web. To keep any tracking down to an absolute minimum, you need to pick a browser focused on privacy, use services like the DuckDuckGo search engine that don't mine your data, and deploy a reliable VPN program whenever you connect to the web. We've written more about the extra steps you can take here.

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What will it take to get a COVID-19 vaccine and how will it be made?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Novel coronavirus is likely going to be with us until a vaccine is developed. We know that COVID-19 attaches to your cells through your mouth and nose and works its way into your lungs where it can spread to other parts of your body. How do we stop it from doing that? With a vaccine. So what does it take to create one?

"A vaccine is a way for your immune system to identify a foreign invader and prepare for an attack even before you have an infection," said ABC7 News special correspondent Dr. Alok Patel.

A vaccine can stop a virus in its tracks, keeping you from getting sick.

"What scientists around the world are trying to do is create a vaccine that is going to teach your immune system what this coronavirus looks like so you are protected from a future infection," said Dr. Patel.

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Vaccines are actually made from part of a bacteria or virus that have lost their ability to replicate and infect a person.

"This could be the outer shell of a bacteria of virus, it could be genetic material, it could even be a weakened version of it," said Dr. Patel.

That weakened version of the coronavirus can be injected into the body and recognized as a foreign invader, called an antigen. That antigen would then let your body know to protect it from the virus.

"What this is basically going to do, is give your immune system an idea of what the virus or bacteria look like," said Dr. Patel.

Before the first person is ever injected with a vaccine, it has to be proven in a lab first.

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"Once they have that part down, and there's an idea that this type of vaccine could work, they then move on to phase one clinical trials," said Dr. Patel.

"Now phase one is going to use a very small amount of healthy adults, and make sure that the vaccine has no adverse side effects," said Dr. Patel. "You have to make sure that the vaccine is safe."

Phase two, would be to test the vaccine on hundreds of people.

At this point, researchers are looking at what the right dose is, and looking at how to scale up production of the vaccine to treat millions of people.

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In phase three, thousands of people would be involved in testing to make sure that vaccine is safe and works.

"Now this entire process, you guessed it, can take a couple of years," said Dr. Patel. "This is why, because after phase 3, all this work that these scientists have been doing gets reviewed by both the FDA and CDC."

The whole process typically takes 10 to 15 years before a vaccine can be licensed for use.

"So a lot of people now are saying, 'Whoa, 10 to 15 years that's a really long time,'" said Dr. Patel. "But everything changes when we are accelerating development because we are using previous research, and a lot more collaboration and a lot more funding. Which is why we are hopeful we could see a COVID-19 vaccine within 12 to 18 months."

With dozens of companies already testing out vaccines globally, researchers are hopeful the coronavirus may soon go the way of smallpox, malaria, and polio, and be part of "our" past.

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