Whenever you browse the internet, you leave clues about yourself and what you do online — other people and organisations can find these clues.
These simple steps will help you cover your tracks and understand how your online activity can be tracked.
Understand how your actions can be tracked online
What do cookies do?
Have you ever wondered how websites seem to know which pop-ups and ads may appeal to you? Cookies tell them. Cookies track us when we are doing things like banking, shopping or simply looking for information or help online.
Cookies make navigating the internet easier, so sites that use them aim to give us a better user experience. Cookies also gather information about our visits to sites, such as how long we stay on a website, the links we click on, and what captures our interest.
Understand the browsing history function
The browsing history function makes it faster and easier for you to return to websites you have previously viewed, but also makes it easy for someone else to see your history too.
There may be times when you do not want someone else to know which websites you visit. For example, you may want to buy a surprise gift for someone or prevent someone from seeing which sites you have been visiting.
What is your level of risk?
Your level of risk relates to your personal circumstances and who has, or has had, access to your computer or devices. For example, if you are frightened of an abusive partner or ex-partner, or experiencing domestic and family violence, you will need to take extra precautions to ensure your actions cannot be tracked online. If you are experiencing domestic and family violence, we can connect you with help and support.
How can you browse more safely?
Browse the web in private mode
Private browsing will not log your browsing history or save, or ‘cache', any web pages, images or cookies as you are browsing. Your browser will not remember the pages you visit or your search history.
Private browsing also prevents other users of the computer or device from finding the search history in most cases — but this may not work if there is spyware or if someone can see what you are doing on your computer or device.
Private browsing is known as InPrivate, Private or Incognito, depending on the browser. The techniques for turning on private browsing vary according to your browser and the computer or device. The websites of popular browsers show how to browse in private mode.
Erase your browsing history
Turn off or delete your browsing history to remove the addresses (URLs) of the websites you visited.
Go to the tools or settings menu and, if your browser offers it, turn off search and page history. Look for a setting called ‘never remember history’ or ‘clear history when closing browser’.
Deleting your history at the end of each browsing session should delete your search history too. Browsers usually allow you to choose whether to delete the entire history, delete the history back to a certain date, or delete a single website from the history list.
Manage your cookies
Are you worried that someone else can find where you have been online? Or do you not want advertisers to be able to target their ads based on your browsing history? Increase your safety and privacy by turning off or deleting cookies.
To turn off cookies in your web browser, go to the settings or tools menu and delete your cookies manually at the end of a session, or configure your browser to do it automatically.
Adopt safe computing and browsing habits
Use the following tips to ensure a safer browsing experience:
- When completing online forms, enter only required information and ignore optional information requests.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date.
- Avoid saving passwords in your browser. This may be convenient, but it also means that anyone who has access to your computer or device can access your online accounts, such as bank, social media and email accounts.
- Avoid using your social media accounts to sign into other online accounts.
- Log out of social media and email accounts when you browse the web.
Know when to use a safer computer or device
The tips suggested above — including private browsing — will not protect you if:
- You are worried that someone might see what you are doing on your computer or device, for example, by looking over your shoulder while you are online.
- Spyware has been installed on your computer. Read more about what might tip you off to the presence of spyware.
- In these cases, the only way to browse safely is to use another, safer computer, such as those at public libraries or community centres, or a trusted friend or family member's computer or device.
‘How to’ videos
Here's a few handy ways to explore the internet more safely.
You should use an up-to-date version of your preferred browser. Websites will continue to display properly and you'll have protection against malware.
Find out which version of browser you're using by visiting whatsmybrowser.org
Make sure sites you log in to have a padlock or https in the URL.
Don't click on suspicious links, buttons or banners that seem too good to be true, not even if they are sent to you by friends.
Make sure you install cookie and ad-blocking plug-ins to help keep away and pesky tracking cookies and unwanted ads.
Think about using private browsing to view websites without saving things like cookies and a history of the pages you visit.
Only share links to your social media pages with people you know and trust.
Find out more by visiting our website.
When someone browses the internet, the browser history captures the places that were visited online. This makes things faster when we need to visit a website again.
However this browser history can also be viewed by anyone who can access the device. They may also be able to see login details for websites.
If a person is at risk of abuse or stalking online, they may want to clear a browser history after visiting websites that might upset a perpetrator, or where they have used a login they want to keep private.
Here’s how to clear the browser history in Google’s Chrome browser.
Select the 3 dot menu.
Select Clear Browsing History
Select the Advanced tab on the top menu
Select all boxes so they have a tick in them
Select the required time range to be cleared, such as ‘the last hour’. If ‘All Time’ is selected the entire history will be cleared.
Click on the Clear Data button on the bottom right hand corner of the window to clear all history.
If a device is synced to others, the history may need to be cleared on those devices as well. It might be useful to stop Syncying the devices for future use.
How to clear Google search history
When someone browses the internet, the browser history captures the places that were visited online.
However, if other people have access to a device, they can also see the browser history, and may even be able to access Login details stored in the browser history.
If a person is at risk of technology facilitated abuse, they should clear the browser history after each web session where logins were used, and sessions when they visited websites they don’t want a perpetrator to see. They should be careful not to alert a perpetrator by over-using this.
Apple devices allow users to clear their browser history.
Here’s how to clear browser history if using Apple’s default browser, Safari.
Tap Bookmarks at the bottom of the screen.
Tap the clock icon – the third icon across the top menu – this opens the Browser History,
Swiping to the left on any entry will open the option to Delete that entry.
To delete multiple entries tap ‘Clear’ to delete.
The Last Hour
The day before
or All Time.
Another option to keep browsing private is to use Private mode.
Watch the separate video on private browsing.
How to clear browser history on iPhone or iPad
Last updated: 17/01/2023