Almost all the major browsers these days have an incognito or private browsing mode. This offers users some peace of mind to go anywhere they like without fear of web sites tracking them to serve them ads. At least that’s the theory but in practice, there might be other ways sites and even ISPs from knowing your activities. It turns out, there might even be ways for sites to know whether you’re browsing Incognito or not and Google is putting an end to that in Chrome.
People use private browsing modes for a variety of reasons and not just because they have something to hide. Some feel that it’s no one’s business to know what sites they visit, especially if it means serving them “personalized” ads. And those that do have something to hide might be hiding it from oppressive regimes.
Whatever the reason, Google Chrome provides the facility for Incognito mode but unfortunately also provides sites with a way to indirectly check for that mode. In Incognito Mode, filesystem access is disabled to prevent storing cookies and other tracking files. Unfortunately, sites can check if that’s the case and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Google frowns upon such practice but site owners do that because of paywalls, a.k.a. subscriptions that require users to login or pay to view more content. Other users simply do so from Incognito mode to trick sites’ meters and virtually have free access to sites indefinitely.
Starting Chrome 76 later this month, Google will be closing the loophole that allows such sites to indirectly determine if a user is on Incognito mode. It urges site owners that will be affected by this change to look into better ways to implement paywalls and to accept the fact that people will always look for ways to get around those.