Google updates Chrome Incognito Mode disclaimer in wake of $5 billion data collection lawsuit

(Image credit: Google)

Google has updated the disclaimer shown when users switch into Incognito Mode in its Chrome browser. MSPowerUser noticed a new and revised disclaimer in the latest Chrome Canary development build. The source site reckons this is the first reaction – in software – to the $5 billion settlement Google agreed to pay out to aggrieved plaintiffs who discovered the company still tracked them when switching to this ‘invisible’ mode.

The agreement by Google to settle this Chrome class action was inked just ahead of the New Year. That’s quite a long time, considering the lawsuit was filed in 2020, but of course, Google tried to wriggle off the hook as best it could. Its best argument was that its Incognito Mode disclaimer saying “downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved,” meant that users consented to some data collection. However, the judge disagreed that users would understand that from the existing disclaimer.

With the case behind it, it was inevitable that Google would need to be more explicit in its intentions regarding data collection in Chrome’s Incognito Mode, and therefore, we are now seeing the new wording in test versions of the software.

(Image credit: MSPowerUser)

Above you can compare and contrast the Chrome browser Incognito Mode disclaimer in its before and after revisions. The new version makes it more obvious that Chrome Incognito Mode isn’t very private at all. It merely shields your Secret Santa purchases (etc.) from others using the same device – not from all the third-party digital eyeballs a browser has to cope with in 2024, and definitely not from Google.

The most significant changes are from: “Now you can browse privately” to “You can browse more privately.” Also, Google now makes it explicit that switching to Incognito Mode “won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google.”

The changes to the Google Chrome Incognito Mode disclaimer are reportedly live in Canary builds across Windows, Android, and other platforms.

Google’s ugly pill

Google Chrome’s browser market share might look unassailable as we gain a march into 2024. However, Google and its signature browser have recently been hit for alleged anticompetitive behavior in the browser wars, thus abusing its dominant position. More recently, our Tom’s Hardware Editor-in-Chief revealed that he hates the newest Material You interface design for Chrome, which he called ugly and annoying. Luckily, there is a remedy for the Chrome Refresh 2023 ugly pill, which is relatively easy to implement if you follow that link.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • peachpuff
    "including google"

    These two words alone cost google 5 billion dollars 😂😂😂
  • yeyibi
    Don't switch to "incognito". Switch to another browser.
  • ezst036
    Fools use Chrome as their browser.
  • yahrightthere
    to the $5 billion settlement Google agreed to pay out to aggrieved plaintiffs who discovered the company still tracked them when switching to this ‘invisible’ mode.
    Aren't we all aggrieved plaintiffs, so where's our 5 billion!, never understood how the money gets distributed to who what when & where.
    Follow the money & I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see who's pockets it ends up in! Looking at you Google.
  • bit_user
    yeyibi said:
    Don't switch to "incognito". Switch to another browser.
    Firefox + EFF Privacy Badger plugin.
    Installation couldn't be easier. Speeds up your browsing experience, as a side-benefit.
  • bit_user
    ezst036 said:
    Fools use Chrome as their browser.
    I'll sometimes use it when using Google web services. However, I don't use those very often.

    I figure that if I'm already using their web services, they're already tracking me. So, no downside. The benefits are: better compatibility and hopefully no link to my Firefox browser, as I've never signed into my Google accounts with it.
  • ivan_vy
    Firefox +ublock+NoScript and never looked back, ever.
  • Unolocogringo
    Firefox with "Ghostery" and Malware Bytes premium does a good job with websites.
    Spybot "Anti-Beacon" for windows, blocks most of windows intrusions/data collection.
    Also NO free cloud storage. What you upload becomes their property with the free versions.