Web browsers

Whenever you browse the internet, you leave clues about yourself, and other people can find these clues if they want to. These simple steps will help you cover your tracks.

The browsers we use online save our browsing history, such as the sites we visit, and they also use cookies.

Have you ever wondered how websites seem to know what 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 on the website captures our interest.

How you can browse more safely

There may be times when you don’t want someone else to know what websites you visit. For example, you may want to buy a surprise gift for someone, or perhaps you are frightened of an abusive partner and are looking for help and support, but without your partner finding out.

Learn how to have a safer browsing experience

Your level of risk relates to who has, or has had, access to your computer or device. The browsing history function makes it faster and easier for you to return to websites you’ve previously viewed, but also makes it easy for someone else to see your history too.

Read more about securing your devices and watch our video on Safe browsing for tips on how to have a safer browsing experience.


Take the tour

How to videos about browsing safely

Manage your cookies

Are you worried that someone else can find where you have been online? Increase your safety 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.

Woman on tablet

Adopt safe computing and browsing habits

When completing online forms, enter only required information and ignore optional information requests.

Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date.

Browse in private mode. Private browsing will not log your browsing history or save (‘cache’) any web pages, images or cookies as you are browsing. Your browser won’t 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 it won’t if there is spyware or if someone can see what you’re 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. Popular browsers include Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge and Safari and their websites show how to move to private mode.

Know when to use a safer computer or device

The tips we’ve suggested above – including private browsing – will not protect you if:

  • you’re worried that someone might see what you're doing on your computer or device, for example, by looking over your shoulder while you’re online
  • spyware’s 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’s or family member’s computer or device.

Erase your browsing history

Turn off or delete your browser 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.

How to videos about clearing browser history

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