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How private is Incognito mode?

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Mar 15, 2021

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In a groundbreaking ruling, a judge in the US has ordered Google to face a class-action lawsuit seeking $5 billion.

The lawsuit claimed the tech giant is tracking and collecting data even when people use the private 'Incognito' mode on its Chrome browser.

This has put the spotlight on Google Chrome's 'Incognito' mode and left users wondering how private the private browsing is.


Google Chrome users filed a complaint in the US in June 2020, claiming that Google has a “pervasive data tracking business.”

In the lawsuit, they alleged that the tracking persists even if users take steps to protect their private information, such as using incognito mode in Chrome, or private browsing in Safari and other browsers.

What is Incognito mode and how private is the data?

This mode gives users the choice to browse the internet without their activities being saved to either browser or devices.

Researchers with the University of Chicago and the Leibniz University of Hanover published the results of a study and found that many participants thought “incognito mode” in a web browser protected their online activity much more than it does. They couldn’t be more wrong.

*46.5% of participants ‘believed bookmarks saved in private mode would not persist in later sessions.’ (Spoiler alert: They do.)

About 40.2% of participants thought websites would not be able to estimate a user’s location, while in incognito mode.

Approximately 27.1% of participants believed private mode offered more protection against viruses and malware than standard [mode.]” It is worth remembering that any files you download and open on your computer could still be infected with malware or viruses.

22.0%, 37.0%, and 22.6% of participants mistakenly believed that ISPs, employers, and the government would be unable to track them when they used private mode.

The study also suggests that 56.3% of participants believed that browsing in private mode would hide their search history.

Google could still log a user’s search and save a copy of that query online, just not necessarily on your computer.

To browse privately, use browsers or a browser extension that will protect your privacy from third parties. With the correct settings, Firefox is a good alternative when it comes to security and privacy. You can also try Tor browser for maximum privacy and Vivaldi.


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