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19% of users use their browser private mode

19% of users feel the need to conceal some of their browsing activity.
Women use their browser private mode mainly for searching information and shopping, Men for various activities including searching information, looking up people and adult sites.

Since we wrote our paper on private browsing mode security violation two years ago, I have been curious to know how many people are using their browser private mode and for what. The release of the Google Consumer Surveys product which allows to run a for an affordable price a survey on a statistically significant population gave me a chance to answer those questions.

Disclaimer: I ran this survey on my own time and money and this blog post solely represents my personal opinion.

 

The survey consisted of two questions: the first one to know if people were using their browser private browsing mode and the second one to know what they are doing with it.

Do you use private browsing ?

 

The overall results of the first questions, visible in the chart above, give us two insights:

- A significant number of people (19.1%) use the private browsing mode. Which means that it is a useful feature and that any work on improving it has a huge impact.

- 44.9% of the users don’t know what it is. This mean there are a lot of users that still don’t know they have the option of using their browser in this mode. A significant educational effort seems required to reach out to those users.

 

 

As visible on the diagram above, the breakdown by gender reveals that men are using the private mode significantly more (statistically speaking) than women. Slicing the data by income does not provide any significant insights.

What do you use private browsing for ?

 

The answers to the question “What do you use private browsing for ?” are dominated by the other answers as visible on the diagram above. When excluded, it appears that people are mainly using private browsing for searching information. Which makes me wonder if people don’t have the wrong expectation about private browsing that is prevents website from tracking them (People expectation regarding private browsing mode will be the subject of an upcoming survey.)

I also wonder how much of other is related to watching video on an office computer during lunch break. If you are using private browsing mode for a specific activity let me know in the comments.

 

Breaking the results down by gender reveals that women mainly use private mode for searching information and shopping. For men it is more contrasted (with no statistically significant insight) with a lot of men answering other.

The last bit of information that I was surprising to me, is how many women report browsing adult websites in private mode. I hadn’t expected such a high percentage (9%).

Drop me a comment below to let me know what you think of the this survey and if you would like more of those (and on which topic ?)

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Elie Bursztein

I lead Google's anti-abuse research team, which invents ways to protect users against cyber-criminal activities and Internet threats. I blog about web performance and security.

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Elie Bursztein © 2017
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