How to use the internet discretely

Are you worried someone may find out you've visited this website? Does your partner monitor your internet activity?

Most internet browsers will save certain information about the websites you visit, like when you use social media, shop online or enter information into search engines, such as Google.

All this information is saved and leaves a trail, known as your ‘internet history’. A perpetrator can easily access this information, which could put you in a harmful situation. 

Here's how you can access the vital information you need, while staying safe online.

How to hide online activity

Most web browsers will have a 'private browsing' mode. Once this is enabled, your browser will no longer store any information about your online activity, so long as you remain in this specific window. That means no history, so any perpetrator will not be able to see what websites you have visited.

The process of enabling ‘private browsing’ is different for each browser. To identify what browser you are using, find the toolbar at the top of the browser screen and click ‘help’. A drop-down menu should appear, and there should be a section that says, ‘About Internet Explorer’, ‘About Mozilla Firefox’, or something very similar.

These are all types of browsers, and once you have confirmed the browser, navigate to the top right-hand side of the screen and do the following:

  • Internet Explorer - Click the 'tools' cog or 3 dots, go to 'Safety', then select 'InPrivate Browsing'
  • Firefox - Click the menu button (three horizontal lines), then select 'New private window'
  • Google Chrome - Click the menu button (three horizontal lines), then select 'New Incognito Window'

There are similar options in Opera and Safari browsers.

How to delete your browsing history

The browser that you are using will keep a record of all web pages that you may have previously visited. To quickly delete your history from the browser, you will need to:

  • Open the browser up, hold down the Ctrl key and the H key at the same time (or Ctrl, Alt and H for Opera browsers). You can then right click and choose the ‘Delete’ option.

Alternatively you can do the following:

  • Internet Explorer - Click on the 'tools' cog or 3 dots and select 'Internet options'. On the 'General' tab, select 'Settings' under 'Browsing history'. Then under 'Temporary internet files', click on 'Delete cookies' and then 'OK'. Click on 'Delete files', put a tick in the box labelled 'Delete all offline content' and click 'OK'. Under History, click on 'Clear history' and then 'OK'. Now look at the top of the window and click on the 'Content' tab, select 'AutoComplete' and finally, 'Clear forms'.
  • Firefox - Click on 'tools' and then 'Options', then click on 'Privacy'. Click on the 'Clear' button next to 'Cache' and 'Saved form information'.

Toolbar search box

If you have a toolbar installed, such as Google, AOL or Yahoo, they will keep a record of all the search words that you have typed into the toolbar search box.

To erase these search words, you will need to check the individual instructions for each toolbar type e.g. for the Google toolbar, simply click on the Google icon, and select ‘Clear Search History’.

General security

Do you use a password to log on to your computer? If not, someone else will be able to access your information, such as your emails, and be able to track your internet usage.

The safest way to find out information on the web, would be to use a computer at the library, friend’s house or work.

Exit site button

We have included an ‘exit site’ button on our webpage so you can quickly leave our pages and hide your activity. Make sure to delete your history to fully cover your tracks.

© Wigan Council