Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Humans are dreamers. That's why we get into so much trouble.

We dream of a perfect life and even when we get it, we realize it's not so perfect at all. Oddly, two Ferraris don't make us happier than one.

For many people these days, however, one significant dream revolves around privacy. We want to believe we're not being spied upon with every breath we take and every move we make. We want to believe we're clever enough to achieve that.

A temptation to that end is to open our laptops, launch a browser and go, as Google terms it, Incognito. With that name, Google encourages us to believe that we can potter about the web and no one will know: 

Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won't see your activity.

How uplifting. You can do so many things without your beloved knowing. Like shopping for their gifts. Or, well, other things. Even Orwell would be impressed, right?

Well, except that if you read the smaller print fully -- and who does these days? -- Google is very clear just how private this form of browsing is: 

First of all: 

Downloads and bookmarks will be saved.

Then there's this: 

Your activity might still be visible to: Websites you visit, your employer or school, your internet service provider.

Your employer? Your school? That really doesn't sound so good, does it? The truth is that private browsing is as private as our playing a video with the sound on at the airport.

It's always worth being careful in interpreting product names. The name Incognito implies that you can hide from prying eyes. The truth, though, is a little different. Or, indeed, entirely different.

It's not as if Google is alone in offering this kind of troubling misnomer. Firefox, for example, has so-called Private Windows. However, the non-profit explains: 

Firefox clears your search and browsing history when you quit the app or close all Private Browsing tabs and windows. While this doesn't make you anonymous to websites or your internet service provider, it makes it easier to keep what you do online private from anyone else who uses this computer.

Easier. Relatively easy.

But in no way actually private.

Published on: Dec 8, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.