Google has officially announced a new warning for its extensive user base of over two billion Chrome users. This revelation might catch many by surprise, as it sheds light on a crucial feature that is not widely comprehended, potentially altering the way people use the browser.
The criticism directed at Google Chrome primarily revolves around the perceived privacy of its “Incognito” mode. The recent lawsuit and subsequent settlement concerning Google’s alleged tracking of users even in Incognito mode brought this issue to the forefront.
Google is now rolling out an update to emphasize that Incognito mode is not as private as many users assume. Despite its name and implications, this revelation might come as a shock to the millions who choose private browsing, assuming a higher level of privacy.
It’s essential to note that this privacy concern is not unique to Chrome; private browsing, despite its name, doesn’t guarantee complete anonymity. While it erases traces of online activity on the local device, it doesn’t shield users from trackers embedded in the websites they visit. Additional precautions, such as blocking tracking, being cautious about login information, and using a VPN, are recommended for enhanced privacy.
In the updated notification discovered by MSPowerUser in a pre-release version, Google warns users that while Incognito mode protects their activity from others using the same device, it doesn’t alter how data is collected and used by the websites and services they access, including Google.
Google confirmed this update in a statement, expressing satisfaction in resolving the dispute and providing more information to users about Incognito mode. The company emphasized that Incognito mode allows users to browse the internet without saving activity to the browser or device.
This transparency from Google, prompted by the lawsuit and subsequent settlement, is a commendable step. The warning is not yet part of the current Chrome release but is expected to be implemented soon, offering users a clearer understanding of what Incognito mode does and doesn’t do.
While this change aligns with increased transparency efforts across the tech industry, it also highlights the contrast with other browsers that prioritize default blocking of user tracking. For instance, Safari’s private browsing from Apple ensures no memory of visited pages, search history, or AutoFill information, and it actively blocks known trackers. Firefox similarly emphasizes enhanced tracking protection and non-saving of browsing information during private sessions.
This move by Google, if indicative of a broader trend toward transparency in response to legal challenges and consumer demand, could lead to more informed choices for users. It remains to be seen whether this pre-release warning will be implemented globally in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Chrome users are advised to enable Incognito mode and opt to block third-party tracking for an added layer of privacy.
Despite Google’s claim that users understood the tracking context, the court disagreed, and the settlement proposal is eagerly anticipated later this month. This development underscores the ongoing push for privacy and transparency, reminiscent of initiatives such as Apple’s Privacy Labels and App Tracking Transparency.