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July 19, 2019

Chrome’s Incognito Mode Will Stop Letting Websites Track User Visits at the End of July

“We suggest publishers monitor the effect of the FileSystem API change before taking reactive measures"

By CBR Staff Writer

Google is gearing up to roll out new privacy Incognito features that will eliminate the ability of websites to detect visitors that have come to their sites via Chrome’s Incognito Mode.

The new feature, or lack of feature as it may be seen by websites, will be included in the Chrome 76 update that will be pushed out at the end of this month.

As opposed to paywalls or registration walls that many online publishers uses, some sites use cookies and API detection to log how many times users’ have visited the site and read or viewed content. Sites using this data then imposes content restrictions such as the ability to read five articles a week before a paywall is brought into place.

Barb Palser Partner Development Manager, News and Web Partnerships at Google commented in a blog that: “Some sites use an unintended loophole to detect when people are browsing in Incognito Mode. Chrome’s FileSystem API is disabled in Incognito Mode to avoid leaving traces of activity on someone’s device. Sites can check for the availability of the FileSystem API and, if they receive an error message, determine that a private session is occurring and give the user a different experience.”

“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.”

Incognito Mode

Google have said that Incognito Mode is used for a variety of reasons by users’ wishing to browse the web privately. Some use it to protect their privacy when using a shared or borrowed device, while other just wish to exclude ‘certain’ content from their browsing histories.

Google sees Incognito Mode as a useful tool for people involved in situations like political oppression and abusive relationships, difficult positions in which the person might feel safer searching the website without leaving a visible trail.

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Palser commented that: “The change will affect sites that use the FileSystem API to intercept Incognito Mode sessions and require people to log in or switch to normal browsing mode, on the assumption that these individuals are attempting to circumvent metered paywalls.”

“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.”

See Also: Home Office to Invest £5 Million Into Police National Data Analytics Solution

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