Google updates Chrome's Incognito Mode data slurp disclaimer in early browser build

After settling privacy lawsuit now admits you're observable even when trying for anonymity

Google has altered the text describing data collection when users employ Incognito Mode in its Chrome browser.

The fresh text, which appeared in a Canary version of Chrome - version 122.0.6251.0 to be precise - reads:

Others who use this device won’t see your activity, so you can browse more privately. This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google. Downloads, bookmarks and reading list items will be saved. Learn more

New Chrome Incognito language

New Chrome Incognito language - Click to enlarge

The live version currently states:

Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads, bookmarks and reading list items will be saved. Learn more

Both versions also indicate that activity might still be visible to websites, employers or school and internet service providers.

Google’s Chrome Incognito support page appears to not have been updated to reflect the changes in the Canary build, suggesting the change isn’t final.

The Register asked Google to comment on the matter and will update this story if we receive a substantial reply.

The changes appear to be a response to a 2020 lawsuit that saw activists allege that Google misled Chrome Incognito Mode users as it did not anonymize their activities as extensively as promised. The web behemoth promoted the tool as providing privacy while in actuality it does not prevent ads, nor Google itself, from observing “what the user is viewing, what the user last viewed, and details about the user's hardware."

The plaintiffs claimed that Google can match Incognito Mode users to visited sites through IP addresses, so that it still exposes those users to Analytics and Ad Manager services.

The Chocolate Factory did not deny the collection of the data, however, it argued that the terms of use did not lie. It tried to have the matter thrown out of court, but did not succeed.

Google eventually settled the matter in December 2023, on undisclosed terms.

Plaintiffs sought damages of $5 billion.

Perhaps they also sought this new language that more accurately describes data collection when using Chrome’s Incognito Mode.

Google’s intentions will become clear in about a month, as the current stable version of Chrome is v 120.x and full releases land every four weeks or so. Chrome 121 is due any moment now, meaning version 122 should be with us in mid-February. ®

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