The recently unveiled details in the latest incognito mode browsers shed light on a widely held belief.
All major browsers come equipped with private browsing modes, with Google Chrome’s variant known as incognito mode. While Google has consistently asserted that your browsing data isn’t saved in incognito mode, the reality is more nuanced than it appears.
Contrary to popular belief, Chrome, the browser itself, refrains from storing your history during incognito sessions. However, the behemoth that is Google—the search engine, advertising titan, and trillion-dollar entity—continues tracking your online activities as usual, even when incognito.
This revelation gained traction in 2020 when a class-action lawsuit accused Google of misleading users about their privacy in incognito mode, alleging a violation of federal wiretapping laws. Seeking a minimum of $5 billion in compensation, the plaintiffs persisted in their legal battles until a recent turn of events.
In a surprising move, Google opted to settle the lawsuit by paying $5 billion, without admitting any wrongdoing. While it initially seemed that Google would maintain the status quo, a notable change emerged on the disclaimer of the incognito mode windows’ new tab page.
The updated disclaimer, recently introduced in version 122 of Chrome Canary for Windows and Android, leaves no room for ambiguity. It explicitly states that Google will continue tracking users during incognito sessions.
The revised disclaimer now reads, “Others who use this device won’t see your activity, so you can browse more privately. This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google. Downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved.”
This significant clarification marks a departure from the earlier notice that could be interpreted as misleading: “Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved.”
As this change has been implemented in the Chrome Canary version, it’s only a matter of time before the updated incognito mode disclaimer makes its way to the public versions of Chrome. It’s essential for users to be informed about the true extent of privacy in incognito mode and understand the implications of Google’s tracking practices.