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Chrome’s Incognito Mode is not entirely ‘Private’, confirms Google

Google has quietly updated the description of its Chrome browser’s Incognito Mode to clarify how data is collected by websites and services, including Google, even while browsing in Incognito Mode.

Google Chrome Updates Incognito Mode Advice After $5M Lawsuit

MSPoweruser discovered the new message displayed by Google in the latest Canary build of Google Chrome, version 122.0.6251.0, which is now live on Android, Windows, and other platforms.

In Chrome’s current stable version, the message when you open a new incognito tab reads, “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.”

However, the updated incognito mode disclaimer, only visible to those who update to the latest version of Google Chrome, 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.”

As seen above, the warning message clearly informs users that websites, including Google, can still collect data and track user activity, even when Incognito Mode is enabled, and that Incognito Mode does not guarantee anonymity. Further, the local storage of downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items remains unaffected.

For those unaware, the recent updates made to the Canary version of Chrome come after the company agreed to settle a $5 billion class-action lawsuit on December 28, 2023, related to secretly tracking users’ browsing activity while in Incognito Mode.

The privacy lawsuit filed in 2020 accused Google of tracking, collecting, and identifying [users’] browsing data in real-time even when they had opened a new Incognito window. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit even claimed that the company’s practices equated to an “unaccountable trove of information” about users under the false perception of privacy.

While Google denied the allegations and said that they mentioned that websites collect data in Incognito Mode, the same was, however, not stated in the disclaimer itself.

“We’re pleased to resolve this case, which we’ve long disputed, and will provide even more information to users about Incognito Mode. Incognito mode in Chrome will continue to give people the choice to browse the internet without their activity being saved to their browser or device,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The formal settlement agreement still requires approval by a federal judge and will be presented before the court by February 24, 2024.

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