Incognito Mode Isn’t Doing What You Think It’s Doing - Kanebridge News
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Incognito Mode Isn’t Doing What You Think It’s Doing

Private browsing, for one thing, may be giving holiday shoppers a false sense of privacy

By HEIDI MITCHELL
Thu, Nov 23, 2023 10:52amGrey Clock 3 min

There is an urban myth that says online shoppers who doggedly search for certain items on the web get tagged by algorithms that then cause them to see higher prices than others shopping for those same items.

The solution for many people: They choose private mode on their web browsers, believing that cloaking their identity can help them get better prices.

But while such “private” settings as Google Chrome’s Incognito mode or Apple’s Safari private browsing mode do offer some benefits, getting a better price isn’t one of them.

“All these private modes do for shoppers is basically erase your search history from the device you’re on and prevent the browser from using your cookies to see your browsing activity across different sites,” says Benjamin Barrontine, vice president of executive services at 360 Privacy, a company that specializes in protecting clients’ digital identity. This is a great feature if you share a laptop with your children and you want to hide the presents you’re purchasing for them, but companies’ pricing is typically based on a number of factors—timing, location, how much an item in that category’s company paid to rise to the top of your search results—that don’t have to do with you personally or how often you search for a product.

A Google spokesperson confirms that cookies, or information stored on your device, are remembered in the current Chrome browsing session while in Incognito mode but then deleted immediately after closing out the session. If you return in Incognito mode to make the purchase, the websites will see you as a new user and won’t remember what you left in your cart. You essentially have to start your search anew, but with the benefit of blocking anyone who shares that device from seeing what you were researching.

Ultimately, experts say, private modes give shoppers a false sense of anonymity and a feeling that they are gaming the system, when all they are doing is hiding past searches. “You should know that your internet-service provider and even your network administrator at work, if you’re searching on a work device or network, may still see what you’re searching,” says Barrontine. “Private mode is not so private, after all.”

In fact, the big tech companies most likely know with near certainty who it is that is doing this supposedly secret searching, even in private mode.

“When you go on to Amazon.com in private mode and search for a bathrobe, even if you’re not logged into the site, Amazon is 99.9% sure of who you are because of the digital fingerprint they’ve developed for you over time,” says Ken Carnesi, chief executive and co-founder of DNSFilter, a software firm that protects companies from attacks at the domain name system level. That’s because Amazon would still know how you arrived at its site based on the link you clicked, your IP address, your ZIP Code, many of your preference settings and loads of other device-specific attributes. A company spokesman declined to comment.

The tech firms may not know that it is specifically you scouring their sites, but they’d know the search came from your home, which operating system you’re using, which language is your default and other details that point to you.

“That’s why, even when you’re not in private mode later on, if you didn’t close out that private window, you may still see bathrobes being pitched to you,” Carnesi says. “All the tracking is likely still passed through to the company who paid for the ad you clicked on.”

Contrary to popular belief, pricing for highly fluctuating, big-ticket items isn’t impacted by private searches, says Kevin Williams, an associate professor at the Yale School of Management who recently published a paper looking at airlines’ methods of dynamic pricing. Williams says in the case of plane tickets, “Airline pricing doesn’t take into account any of your personal information except location,” as in the country of origin. Using a virtual private network (VPN) can obfuscate your device’s physical location, and may turn up a better fare, but might require some trial and error, Williams says.

There are some additional benefits for shoppers to using private mode, beyond hiding your searches from prying eyes. The search bar won’t auto-fill with prior searches, so you can start anew every time you open a new private window and not fall down an old rabbit hole. You can keep your searches private on a public device or borrowed computer. And you can use a credit card that will later be wiped so your children won’t have access to funds without permission.

For true privacy, consider shopping through a search engine like Brave.com, which doesn’t ever track your searches or your clicks. “Unlike with other search engines, you and your data are not the product here,” Carnesi says. And your partner will never know about that bathrobe you forgot to actually purchase.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .