Chrome Incognito Warning Admits It’s Tracking Users in ‘Private’ Mode

by ghaliamohrem, Thursday, 18 January 2024 (1 month ago)
Chrome Incognito Warning Admits It’s Tracking Users in ‘Private’ Mode

Even in Chrome’s semi private mode, websites operated by Google and others may still obtain data about you, according to an updated warning on the Incognito mode.

GOOGLE
GOOGLE

Chrome updates Incognito warning.

Google is taking the first step in resolving a class-action lawsuit that alleges the firm breached customers’ privacy with its Incognito mode in Chrome. The nightly version for developers, Chrome Canary, has integrated the bigger warning.

One of the accusations made in the lawsuit—that the notification for Incognito mode fails to fully disclose that Google monitors people using private mode—seems to have been addressed head-on by this change.

By introducing a more prominent warning in the Chrome Canary version, Google aims to enhance transparency and provide users with clearer information about their privacy while using Incognito mode.

This update demonstrates Google’s willingness to address the concerns raised in the class-action lawsuit and take steps towards resolving the issue. With this change, Google seems committed to ensuring that users have a better understanding of the extent to which their online activities may still be monitored even in private mode.

Even though private browsing modes in browsers prohibit some data storage, websites and ISPs may still monitor you even when you utilize them. This is something that many tech-savvy people are aware of. However, the more extensive warning could serve to educate users, as many others might not be aware of the true purpose of Incognito mode.

By providing a clearer explanation of the limitations of private browsing, users can make more informed decisions about their online privacy. Educating users about the potential risks of monitoring and data collection can empower them to take additional steps to protect their personal information, such as using VPNs or encrypted messaging services.

Ultimately, a comprehensive warning could help bridge the gap between tech-savvy individuals and those who may be less knowledgeable about online privacy, fostering a safer and more informed internet community.

If you’re seeking dependable tech news, reviews, policy analysis, and more, look no further than Ars Technica, where this item originally appeared. Condé Nast, the parent company of WIRED, owns Ars.

The new warning that appears in Chrome Canary

When you start the incognito window it says: You have gone into incognito mode.You can browse the web in complete privacy, as no one else using this device can see what you are doing. This will not change how data is obtained by the websites you visit and services you use, including Google.

Language may be considered to relate to Google websites and third-party websites, including third-party websites that rely on Google services Advertising…

The new warning was not yet in the developer, beta, or stable versions of Chrome as of Tuesday. It also wasn’t in chromium. The upgrade to Canary was initially observed by MSPowerUser.

Incognito mode in the stable version of Chrome still says, You’ve gone Incognito. Now you may browse silently, and other folks who use this gadget won’t notice your conduct.” Among other adjustments, the Canary warning swaps “browse privately” with “browse more privately.

The steady and canary alerts both state that your browsing activity might still be accessible to “websites you visit,” “your employer or school,” or “your Internet service provider.” But only the Canary warning now bears the admonition that Incognito mode “won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google.

This addition to the Canary warning is significant as it clarifies that using Incognito mode does not offer complete privacy and data collection by websites and services remains unaffected.

It reminds users that their online activities might still be monitored and tracked by various entities. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise caution and take additional steps to protect personal information while browsing.

Does Chrome still track you in Incognito?

The prior and new warnings both indicate that Incognito mode stops Chrome from retaining your browser history, cookies, site data, and everything typed in forms, but that “downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved.” Both warnings redirect to this page, which contains extra information regarding Incognito mode.

This extra information explains that while Incognito mode provides some level of privacy, it is not foolproof. It highlights that your internet service provider, employer, or the websites you visit can still track your online activities.

The page also advises users to be cautious while browsing in Incognito mode, as it does not protect against malware or harmful websites. Overall, it emphasizes the need for users to understand the limitations of Incognito mode and to take additional measures to ensure online privacy and security.

We asked Google when the warning will be implemented in Chrome’s stable channel and whether the change is necessitated by or tied to the forthcoming settlement of the privacy class-action case.

Google didn’t offer detailed answers but issued this statement: We’re glad to settle this problem, which we’ve long fought, and give even more information to users about Incognito mode. Incognito mode in Chrome will continue to provide users with the ability to surf the Internet without their activity being saved to their browser or device.

The lawsuit was filed in California District Court in 2020

On December 26, 2023, Google and the plaintiffs claimed that they had reached a settlement that they intended to offer to the court for approval within 60 days. A jury trial was previously planned to commence on February 5.

The settlement, if approved, would bring an end to a long-standing legal battle between Google and the plaintiffs. Both parties expressed their satisfaction with the terms of the settlement, which were not disclosed to the public. With the trial now averted, Google can focus on its future endeavors without the burden of ongoing litigation.

A fourth amended complaint filed in March 2023 alleges violations of federal wiretap law, California’s Invasion of Privacy Act, California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, and California’s Unfair Competition Law. It also alleged invasion of privacy, intrusion into seclusion, and breach of contract.

Google’s Privacy Policy, Privacy ‘Controls,’ and Incognito Screen’ each falsely represent that users may avoid Google’s collection by utilizing Private Browsing Mode, the lawsuit stated.

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Describing the current Incognito screen’s guarantees, plaintiffs said: “Based on these Google representations, throughout the class period, plaintiffs and class members reasonably anticipated that Google would not collect personal data while in Incognito mode.

They reasonably thought ‘You’ve gone incognito’ and ‘Now you can browse quietly’ to mean they could surf discreetly without Google’s continued monitoring and data harvesting.

However, this was not the case. Google was still able to collect data from users in Incognito mode, including their browsing history, website visits, and search queries. This breach of trust has led to a lawsuit against Google, as users feel deceived and their privacy violated. The plaintiffs argue that Google’s misleading statements have caused them harm and they seek compensation for the breach of their privacy.

Google might have disclosed on this Incognito Screen that Google would monitor users and capture their data while they were browsing secretly, but Google did not do so.

Instead, Google presented representations meant to convince users that they had ‘gone incognito’ and could ‘browse privately’ with very few exceptions, none of which showed Google’s true monitoring and data collection practices while users were in a private browsing mode.

Google Changes Chrome’s Incognito Screen To Warn

The lawsuit went on to say that “Google’s code continues to send the user’s browsing history and other data directly to Google’s servers during users’ private browsing sessions, that “the session is not private’ at all.

and other people who use this device’ will still know what preceding users did by way of targeted ads served by Google based on browsing activity that took place during the private browsing, and that user activities are visible to Google,which continues to track users.

Intercept their communications, and collect their data while they are in Incognito mode and other private browsing modes. What is strikingly omitted from the Incognito screen—and any other representation by Google—is a notice that Google continues to monitor users when they are in a private browsing mode.

Google Chrome news

The lawsuit said. Nothing in Google’s Privacy Policy or Incognito Screen prompts users to think that during private surfing, Google continues to persistently monitor them and sell their browsing data and conversations to other third parties. In truth, when the Privacy Policy and Incognito Screen are read together, the user inevitably draws the opposite inference.

Google contended the plaintiffs consented to Google’s reception and use of the information at issue (regardless of whether they were using Chrome’s Incognito mode or any other browser’s private browsing mode).

Google stated its privacy policy that users consent to when they create their accounts “discloses that Google acquires the information at issue via its services implemented on third-party websites.

Furthermore, Google emphasized that their privacy policy clearly states that user data is collected through their services implemented on third-party websites. According to Google, this includes information obtained while using Chrome’s Incognito mode or any other browser’s private browsing mode.

Therefore, the plaintiffs’ claims of privacy infringement are invalid as they had already agreed to these terms when they created their Google accounts.

Users also implicitly consented to Google’s receipt of the information because they were aware that Google receives such information when users visit websites that use Google’s services, Google argued.

Google said consumers may use Chrome’s Developer Tools

which may be available via the Chrome menu, or similar features in other browsers to learn which third-party services (including Google services) the websites they visit are using and the data being sent to those services.

By accessing these settings, users can gain valuable insights into the extent of data sharing between websites and third-party services.

This transparency empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their online privacy and choose whether or not to engage with websites that may be sharing their data with certain services. Ultimately, this feature promotes a more secure and personalized browsing experience for users across different browsers.

Google asserted further that the receiving of information from users is known to the public because it has been widely discussed in the news media and other public commentary. This statement was made in response to concerns raised by privacy advocates regarding the collection and storage of user data by Google.

The company argued that the practices in question were not a secret and had been subject to public scrutiny. Google emphasized its commitment to transparency and asserted that users have the option to control their data and make informed choices about their privacy settings.

 

 

 

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