In a move that is bound to piss off more than a couple of publishers, Google is readying to fix the “loophole” that allowed sites to see when you’re browsing in Incognito Mode.
Google announced in a blog post on Thursday that the update will arrive with the release of Chrome 76 later this month. The tip-off to sites that you’re browsing in private mode is an unintended result of Chrome’s FileSystem API, which is disabled in Incognito. If a site searches for the FileSystem API and gets an error message, it can, as Google puts it, “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,” the company said.
News of this kind of behavior by websites has been cropping up for years, and it’s a huge pain in the ass if you’re, say, trying to get around a publisher’s paywall. But while it’s kind of a bummer for publishers if they can’t force you to log in, subscribe, or switch to a normal browsing mode, Google notes there are serious circumstances under which Incognito Mode users might need to protect their privacy, including political oppression or domestic abuse.
This is just the latest development in Google’s performative privacy campaign as it works to keep up with every other tech giant waving their own ostensible privacy flag. But given the fact that this has been an issue for years now, fixing it seems like the very least that Google could do—particularly given its own admission that some of its users may rely on Incognito for protection beyond simply skirting a site’s views meter.
That said, it’s still a welcome update. Google also noted that in addition to fixing the FileSystem API loophole, it will “likewise work to remedy any other current or future means of Incognito Mode detection.”