Google Chrome 76 update to fix loophole that allowed sites to track users in incognito mode

Google’s Chrome 76 update will fix a big loophole in the browser that allowed sites to track you even in incognito mode.

| Updated on: Jul 19 2019, 13:21 IST
Google Chrome Incognito Mode.
Google Chrome Incognito Mode. (Google)
Google Chrome Incognito Mode.
Google Chrome Incognito Mode. (Google)

Google is now fixing a big loophole in its Chrome browser that allowed some websites to track users even in incognito mode. The changes will come into effect with the latest Chrome 76 browser update, set to roll out on July 30.

"People choose to browse the web privately for many reasons. Some wish to protect their privacy on shared or borrowed devices, or to exclude certain activities from their browsing histories. In situations such as political oppression or domestic abuse, people may have important safety reasons for concealing their web activity and their use of private browsing features," Google in a blog post.

What is incognito mode?

Google's Chrome offers an "incognito mode" where users can browse sites privately. In incognito mode, Chrome browser doesn't access your browsing history or save it, cookies or site data like passwords or usernames, and information entered in the forms. The private browsing, however, is visible to websites you visit, employer or school, and your internet service provider.

You can access the private browsing mode by clicking on three dot menu > new incognito window/tab on your PC/mobile browser. PC shortcut to access incognito window is CTRL+Shift+N.

Is incognito mode safe?

Not really. Over the years, hackers and developers have discovered workarounds to bypass the incognito mode to track users' web activity. According to a report earlier this year, developer platforms such as Stack Overflow are flooded with such tutorials to exploit the incognito mode.

Fixing FileSystem API

Google said that it is now going to fix the API called FileSystem loophole. The API allowed websites to create temporary or permanent files and could create even after users exit incognito mode.

"With the release of Chrome 76 scheduled for July 30, the behavior of the FileSystem API will be modified to remedy this method of Incognito Mode detection. Chrome will likewise work to remedy any other current or future means of Incognito Mode detection," added Google in the post.

Paywall sites to suffer

Google's latest update to Chrome browser will have a big impact on websites that are paywall based and give out limited content for free. Google, however, isn't being very helpful to these websites. Here's what the company said to these publishers.

"Sites that wish to deter meter circumvention have options such as reducing the number of free articles someone can view before logging in, requiring free registration to view any content, or hardening their paywalls. Other sites offer more generous meters as a way to develop affinity among potential subscribers, recognizing some people will always look for workarounds. We suggest publishers monitor the effect of the FileSystem API change before taking reactive measures since any impact on user behavior may be different than expected and any change in meter strategy will impact all users, not just those using Incognito Mode."


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First Published Date: 19 Jul, 12:24 IST