Google will block sites from tracking your incognito activity

Google is blocking a loophole in Chrome that allows websites to track a user — even if they’re in Incognito mode. This tactic is most prominently used by news sites who want to know if a user is attempting to bypass their paywalls and deterring them from doing so. Google is against this as a matter of principle. Ironically, for a company that isn’t much associated with privacy, the firm argues that being able to access the web privately should you chose so is a right worth protecting. With Chrome 76, the firm will close one current loophole, and work to disable any “current or future” means of detection.

Google notes the change would have some effect on publishers, saying:

Sites that wish to deter meter circumvention have options such as reducing the number of free articles someone can view before logging in, requiring free registration to view any content, or hardening their paywalls. Other sites offer more generous meters as a way to develop affinity among potential subscribers, recognizing some people will always look for workarounds. 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.

Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognize the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode. We remain open to exploring solutions that are consistent with user trust and private browsing principles

Google Chrome 76 will roll out to users from July 30.

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