In a bid to enhance transparency for its users, Google has updated the language in Chrome’s Incognito Mode disclaimer to explicitly state that the company does collect user data. The revision, discovered by tech news site MSPowerUser in the latest Chrome Canary update for both desktop and mobile, includes an additional line affirming that data collection practices by websites, including Google, remain unaffected.
Upon installing the browser to verify the changes, it was confirmed that the new line has indeed been added beneath the disclaimer. The bullet points following the disclaimer remain mostly unchanged, except for a slight modification in one header that now explicitly mentions, “Chrome won’t save the following information,” followed by a list, as opposed to the previous wording, “Chrome won’t save.”
While not officially confirmed, the language update is speculated to be a response to a class-action lawsuit filed against Google in 2020. The lawsuit, amounting to $5 billion, accused the tech giant of clandestinely collecting user data from browsers operating in private mode. Google’s defence argued that Chrome consistently informed users, each time they opened an incognito tab, about the potential collection of information by itself or other websites.
However, the presiding judge rejected Google’s defence, asserting that the company “never explicitly told users that it does so.” Subsequently, the parties involved reached a settlement on December 28, 2023, the terms of which remain undisclosed.
As of now, it remains uncertain when the updated wording will transition from the Canary version to the stable version of the browser. Chrome Canary is an experimental version primarily intended for developers testing upcoming features before official release. Despite its instability and propensity to crash unpredictably, the inclusion of only a few lines of text suggests that the Incognito Mode refresh could be implemented relatively soon.
According to an Ars Technica report from late December, the settlement reached in December 2023 needs to be presented to the court by the end of January. Approval by the court is required by the end of February, potentially paving the way for the new wording to be integrated into Chrome as early as March.
In response to inquiries, Google has yet to provide additional details on the update. The timeline for the release of the revised disclaimer is subject to further clarification, and any developments will be reported in an update to this story.
It is essential for users to note that while the disclosure of data collection practices has been improved, this alteration does not signify a change in Google’s behaviour. The company will continue to collect user data; the only difference is that Google is now explicitly informing users of this practice. Users are encouraged to remain vigilant about their online privacy and make informed decisions regarding their use of Chrome’s Incognito Mode.