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Maintaining Privacy When You Browse The Internet

While the Internet is a great way to search for information and get support, it is possible for others to see what you’ve been viewing online. Every time you use the Internet, your web browser saves bits of information such as search terms, words entered into search engines, images, and login names.

This helps frequently visited pages load faster by loading the files directly from your hard drive instead of downloading the web page again. These items are saved as “cookies” and they can leave a trail or “history” that reveals your online behavior. To maintain your privacy, consider these options:

  1. Use A Computer Away From Home
  2. Clear Your Browsing History
  3. Turn on Private Browsing

1. Use A Computer Away From Home

One way to possibly be safe is to be sure no one sees your online history and to use a computer that is not shared or accessible by your abuser, a computer away from home–public libraries, Internet cafes and friend’s houses are possible options.

2. Clear Your Browsing History

If you are using a shared computer, you can clear the browsing history to better maintain your privacy. Be aware that removing cookies may clear saved passwords for online banking or other sites, which could alert others that you have cleared the history. Also, if someone notices that the history has been cleared, it could raise suspicion. If you want to be sure of not being tracked online and need internet privacy, the safest thing to do is to use a computer at a local library, an internet cafe, a friend’s house or at work. Another alternative to clearing your browser is to use private browsing (see Turn on Private Browsing, below).

To clear your browsing history, you will need to know which Internet browser you are using. If you are unsure what browser you are using, click “Help” on the toolbar at the top of the browser screen. A drop down menu will appear. A listed item will say About Internet Explorer, About Mozilla Firefox, Safari Help, Google Chrome Help, or something similar. That is the browser you’re using.

Read more about clearing your browsing history for your specific browser here

3. Turn on Private Browsing

Many browsers offer private browsing mode. This means that webpages you open and files you download while in private mode aren’t recorded in your browsing and download histories. All new cookies are deleted after you close the browser windows.

How to Open Private Browsing

Google Chrome (Incognito Mode)

  • Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS – Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Mac – Command+Shift +N
  • Alternative method – Chrome menu -> New incognito window. A new window will open with the incognito icon in the corner.

Tip: If you’re using Chrome OS, you can use the guest-browsing feature as an alternative to incognito mode. When browsing as a guest, you can browse the web and download files as normal. Once you exit your guest session, all of your browsing information from the session is completely erased, thus ensuring internet privacy.

Mozilla Firefox

  • File -> New Private Window

Internet Explorer (In Private Browsing)

  • Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Alternative Method – Menu -> Safety\InPrivate Browsing


  • The plus sign (+) means to enter the commands at the same time.
  • (Command+Comma) = press the Command and Comma keys at the same time.
  • The arrow (->) means to select the following item on a toolbar or drop down menu.