Google to plug loophole in Chrome's Incognito mode

Joanna Estrada
July 19, 2019

Nearly all the major browsers these days have an incognito or private browsing mode.

Chrome offers an API to access storage on the browsing device - handily called the FileSystem API - that's disabled in Incognito mode.

This practice will stop with Chrome 76, due for release at the end of July.

Google is about to improve your internet browsing privacy with the help of a new Chrome update that's meant to prevent websites from detecting your incognito sessions.

"People choose to browse the web privately for many reasons". Using incognito mode is like approaching the same crack dealer in a variety of interesting disguises, getting that sweet free hit indefinitely.

You can access the private browsing mode by clicking on three dot menu new incognito window/tab on your PC/mobile browser. The API allowed websites to create temporary or permanent files and could create even after users exit incognito mode.

If you thought Incognito mode was just for porn, you're wrong. Google says the change are coming in Chrome 76, and will also make it harder for publishers to determine when people are trying to bypass paywalls. Google will rectify Chrome's FileSystem API, which allows websites to keep track of your browsing history.

Currently, websites are able to detect when a user is browsing in Incognito Mode by scanning for the presence of Chrome's Filesystem API (Application Programming Interface), which is disabled in this mode in order for the user's browsing activity not to leave traces on their device. "It's disappointing that Google is again unilaterally imposing its will on news publishers", said the group's president, David Chavern in a statement.

One effect of the change is that sites using metered paywalls-as in, those that let people read a certain number of articles before requiring they subscribe-will no longer be able to detect if incognito mode is being used to dodge this policy. Other sites offer more generous meters as a way to develop affinity among potential subscribers, recognizing some people will always look for workarounds.

Google suggests publishers of paywall sites to monitor the effect of the FileSystem API update to implement required changes in their meter strategy.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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