Google to Delete Search Data From Tens of Millions of Users Who Used ‘Incognito’ Mode in Chrome

Bobby Allyn, reporting for NPR:

Google will destroy the private browsing history of millions of people who used “incognito” mode in its Chrome browser as a part of a settlement filed to federal court on Monday in a case over the company’s secret tracking of web activity. For years, Google simply informed users of Chrome’s internet browser that “you’ve gone Incognito” and “now you can browse privately,” when the supposedly untraceable browsing option was turned on — without saying what bits of data the company has been harvesting.

Yet, according to a 2020 class-action lawsuit, the tech giant continued to scrape searches by hoovering up data about users who browsed the internet in incognito mode through advertising tools used by websites, grabbing “potentially embarrassing” searches of millions of people. Google then used this data to measure web traffic and sell ads. [...]

As the suit was pending, Google changed the splash screen of incognito mode to state that websites, employers and schools and internet service providers can view browsing activity in incognito mode. But under the deal, Google will have to state that the company itself can also track browsing during incognito mode.

That was quite the omission. I’m not sure there was ever a product in history more purposefully misleadingly named than Chrome’s “Incognito” mode.

Tuesday, 2 April 2024