How to go incognito on YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, and more
Go private more often.
Even though it’s not as private as you might think, using incognito or private mode in your web browser has its benefits: It puts a temporary pause on the tracking of your web history and doesn’t save data you input, such as your credentials and personal details.
Whether you don’t want anybody to know you looked up a potentially embarrassing medical condition, or you’re shopping for a gift for someone else in secret, incognito mode can help.
What you may not know is that there are several apps other than your browser that also support this private, tracking-free mode. If you need to temporarily go about your business without leaving any tracks, here’s what you need to do.
There are good reasons you might want YouTube to remember what you’re watching. Logging the videos you’ve clicked improves your recommendations and makes sure you can easily get back to that hilarious sketch clip you enjoyed several weeks ago. However, there might be some clips that you don’t want showing up.
[Related: Why YouTube is hiding dislikes on videos]
To temporarily go incognito in the mobile app, tap your profile picture (top right), then choose Turn on Incognito. You’ll then start browsing on a clean slate, with fresh recommendations and no viewing history. To go back to normal, tap the incognito button (top right) and select Turn off Incognito.
You won’t find an incognito mode available on YouTube on the web, but in your browser you can simply open up the video platform in a private browsing tab. Note that if you’re a YouTube Premium subscriber, the ads will return when you’re in incognito mode.
Google is obviously keen on this idea of going incognito because the mode is available in Google Maps too. It’s useful if you need to research places or plan journeys without leaving any traces or if you don’t want to affect the recommendations the app gives you about where to go.
If you’re using the mobile app, tap your profile picture (top right), then choose Turn on Incognito mode. Your personalized recommendations and quick links to places like your home address will disappear, and the app won’t save anything you do in this mode. To exit, tap the incognito mode button (top right) and choose Turn off Incognito mode.
As with YouTube, you won’t find this option built into Google Maps on the web, but you can just open the site inside a browser tab set to incognito mode instead. You can still look up information about places and get navigation directions, but you can’t leave reviews, save places, or see your location history.
Your listening history shows up in a few places on Spotify. The app shares it with any friends you’ve connected on the platform, for instance, and your recently played artists show up on your public Spotify profile too.
To listen to songs without this automatically sharing and logging, start a private session. On mobile, tap Home, the cog icon, and turn the Private Session toggle switch on. On the desktop app, click the drop-down arrow (top right) to find the switch. To end a private session, just retrace your steps and flick the switch the other way.
If you don’t turn them off manually, private sessions end when you restart the Spotify app or “after a long period of inactivity,” though how long that means exactly it’s not clear. The company also says private sessions “may not influence your music recommendations” which is also annoyingly vague.
While Instagram doesn’t have an incognito mode as such, you can stop your friends from seeing when you’re actively online. Tap your profile picture (bottom right), then the menu button (top right), then Settings and Privacy. Select Activity status and turn off the Show activity status option.
This also means that you won’t be able to see the activity status of other people on Instagram in places like the direct message conversation list, for example, so bear that in mind. Switch Show activity status back to on to go back to normal.
There’s not much you can do on Instagram without being logged in, but you can open profile pictures and individual posts on the web by following links to them. If you’re logged in online, open them in an incognito window in your browser.
You can’t switch to incognito mode on Twitter, but you can at least scroll through the platform in your web browser without logging in. You’ll easily see posts and media, but you won’t be able to interact with tweets or the people posting them. The same is true to an extent on Facebook, though most content isn’t made public.
As for the video streaming services, unfortunately, none of them offer an incognito mode. However, you can edit your viewing history and remove items if necessary. On Netflix on the web or on mobile, click your profile picture (top right), then Account, your name, and View next to Viewing activity. Click the hide button (on the right) to remove something from your record—it won’t show up as recently viewed or affect your recommendations.
Other video streaming apps have similar options if you delve into your viewing history in the settings. They all support profiles now as well, so your viewing record doesn’t have to get mixed up with the rest of your family or the people you share a place with.