Guest Mode Solves Some Privacy Issues

Category: Privacy

Have you ever let a friend or family member use your Web browser “just for a minute” and returned to find things in total disarray? Perhaps your guest logged you out of Facebook or Gmail. Maybe they changed your settings or installed a toolbar. Yuck. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to clean up after guests, or worry about them seeing things that are not their business? Guest Mode solves the problem -- read on...

What Is Browser Guest Mode?

When a friend or family member sits down at your computer, you never know what they might do. In addition to logging you out of your online accounts, and installing unwanted web browser extensions or toolbars, they may also forget to log out of their own accounts, and that can be awkward. Even worse, what if they poke around in your stuff using passwords saved in your browser?

Google Chrome has a “guest mode” similar to the guest account available on Windows PCs. Guest Mode gives a guest his/her own browser window, which has certain restrictions on what the guest can do. When the guest leaves, closing the guest mode window erases all trace of the guest’s presence; your browser window stays untouched.

Browser Guest Mode

To start Guest Mode, look for your your profile icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome. (If you're not logged into a Google account, Guest Mode is not available.) Click the profile icon and then click "Open Guest Window".

Optionally, you can use the "Mange People/Add Person" option to add a Google account to your browser. The advantage of logging in as guest with a Google account is that your synced bookmarks, settings and themes will be available in your guest session.

A new window will open with this message: "You’re browsing as a Guest. Pages you view in this window won’t appear in the browser history and they won’t leave other traces, like cookies, on the computer after you close all open Guest windows. Any files you download will be preserved, however."

A Few Caveats

Perhaps, like me, you were wondering how a Guest session differs from going Incognito. The difference is that an Incognito session will have all YOUR bookmarks and browser extensions. A Guest session is like a blank slate -- unless the guest logs in to their Google account. They are similar in that all traces of browser history, cookies, etc. vanish when the session is closed.

One important thing to remember is that when you open a Guest browser window, the original browser window remains open and fully accessible. So security is more or less on the honor system, unless you logout of your Google account and close your browser window after starting the Guest session. It would be much better if all other open Chrome windows were somehow locked or minimized while a Guest session is active.

What About Firefox, Edge, Safari and Opera?

Guest mode for Firefox was available until recently. But when Firefox 67 was released in May 2019, the Guest Session feature was removed "to streamline user experience." Likewise, Edge, Opera and Safari lack the Guest Mode feature. But all of these browsers do have some version of Incognito, or Private Browsing Mode.

In Firefox, click the Menu icon (three horizontal bars upper right), then click New Private Window. (Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+P)

In Microsoft Edge, click the "Settings and more" button (three dots icon) in the top-right corner, then choose "New InPrivate window." (Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+P)

In Internet Exporer, click the "Gear" icon in the top-right corner, then choose "Safety", then "InPrivate browsing." (Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+P)

In the Safari browser on your Mac, choose File > New Private Window.

In Opera, click the "Customize and control Opera" button on the top left of the browser window. Then click "New private window." (Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+N)

In summary, guest mode is a much safer way to let other people use your device for a moment. During guest sessions, the guest does not have access to your bookmarks, browsing history, stored passwords, and other sensitive data. And if they remember to logout, you won't have access to their, either. :-)

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Guest Mode Solves Some Privacy Issues"

Posted by:

09 Sep 2019

Personally I would rather have a "guest" log into my PC under GUEST MODE for even more security. When Mr Guest has access to my PC he can easily browse my documents and install anything onto it. With a PC guest mode all my personal stuff is invisible. Also if I want to be even more protective I can set up the PC guest mode to not allow any installs of any kind.

Posted by:

Bill C
09 Sep 2019

jAMES, that's the method I have used for some time. I actually think I got that idea from Bob Rankin !!

You can also set up another account and make that the admin so you can browse with some security that someone can't sneek in and make changes while you are on line under your own name.

Posted by:

09 Sep 2019

Wouldn't it be more secure to just give them a guest account on the computer that would better restrict access to data, etc?

Posted by:

09 Sep 2019

There is no way I would let ANYBODY on my computer, period.

Posted by:

11 Sep 2019

I never let anyone use my computer. Instead, I let them use my Guest Network. That way they have internet access without being able to access my data. My Guest Network has a very secure password which I enter on my guest's device instead of giving it to them so they can not share it later on. I also use my Guest Network for wireless devices (cameras, Smart TV, Alexa, etc) so that in the (hopefully) unlikely event one of the devices gets hacked they still can't get to my data.

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