February 23, 2024
screenshot / DigitalTrends.com

Google is now making efforts to ensure users understand the meaning of Incognito Mode on its Chrome browser following a class-action lawsuit that cost the company $5 billion.

The publication MSPoweruser discovered Google tested a Canary build of Chrome with an updated definition of Incognito Mode that more clearly spells out the stipulations of what is hidden when you enter the browsing state. The new disclaimer includes an added line in the first paragraph that reads: “This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and services you use.” Otherwise, it remains largely the same.

You can see the original version in the photo above. This difference is subtle, just emphasizing that your data will still be collected online in Incognito Mode, which was the basis of the lawsuit.

The update follows the 2021 class-action lawsuit settlement where those involved alleged they were not aware of the extent to which their data could still be accessed in Incognito Mode. Google, your ISP, and your employer can all view and collect data from your Chrome browser history, even in Incognito Mode.

Much of this information was already detailed in Google’s original disclaimer, which stated that the browser doesn’t save browser history, cookies and site data, as well as information entered in forms. Additionally, it indicated that browser activity might be visible to websites that you visit (for ad purposes), your employer or school, or your internet service provider.

Nevertheless, Google settled this case years ago and is moving forward with cleaning up any perceived errors. With this leak pertaining to a Canary build, or an early version with little testing, there’s no telling if or when the update will be available for public users, but it is a good sign that Google is taking this matter seriously. Still, no major changes have been made to the Google Chrome browser in terms of its overall functionality.

Many savvy online users often use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep their personal internet activities from prying eyes. Using more secure browsers with fewer tracking features and better Incognito Mode, including Firefox, Brave, and DuckDuckGo, is also a good option.

Google isn’t the only tech company that suffered legally due to data infringement. In April 2023, Meta (formerly Facebook) settled a $725 million class-action lawsuit, which detailed how the social media platform left users’ and their friends’ data exposed to third parties for profit. The suit added that Facebook had no rules or privacy protection in place for how third parties should interact with its users’ data.

More recently, a December 2023 data breach of the DNA testing company 23andMe made the brand quickly update its terms and services in an attempt to prevent a class-action lawsuit over compromised data.

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