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The Incognito Mode Myth Has Fully Unraveled

Wired: “If you still hold any notion that Google Chrome’s “Incognito mode” is a good way to protect your privacy online, now’s a good time to stop. Google has agreed to delete “billions of data records” the company collected while users browsed the web using Incognito mode, according to documents filed in federal court in San Francisco on Monday. The agreement, part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed in 2020, caps off years of disclosures about Google’s practices that shed light on how much data the tech giant siphons from its users—even when they’re in private-browsing mode. Under the terms of the settlement, Google must further update the Incognito mode “splash page” that appears anytime you open an Incognito mode Chrome window after previously updating it in January. The Incognito splash page will explicitly state that Google collects data from third-party websites “regardless of which browsing or browser mode you use,” and stipulate that “third-party sites and apps that integrate our services may still share information with Google,” among other changes. Details about Google’s private-browsing data collection must also appear in the company’s privacy policy…Critics of Incognito, a staple of the Chrome browser since 2008, say that, at best, the protections it offers fall flat in the face of the sophisticated commercial surveillance bearing down on most users today; at worst, they say, the feature fills people with a false sense of security, helping companies like Google passively monitor millions of users who’ve been duped into thinking they’re browsing alone.”

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