Google Chrome Makes It Harder For Websites To Detect And Block Incognito Mode

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A soon to be launched feature in the Google Chrome browser is all set to address an old loophole which allows websites to detect and block the use of Incognito mode browsing.

Infamously dubbed as the ‘porn mode,’ Chrome’s incognito or private mode does much more than allowing its users to watch X-rated content without leaving a trace of having done so.

Google Chrome browser’s incognito mode erases internet users’ browsing and search history and also deletes all tracking cookies which they might have picked up during surfing in that mode. Browsing the internet using this mode can help safeguard user privacy, especially for people sharing a computer or network.

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By tracking users’ browsing history and storing their cookies, websites gain information about their users’ interests and thus bombard them with more specific ads more in future; which is why they don’t like users to switch over to the incognito mode.

Most users tend to believe that they have outsmarted website owners by switching over to the incognito mode, some of them without understanding that Chrome has long had a flaw which allows websites to know when users switch over to this mode. And Google is now determined to fix this issue, putting user privacy and security above website owners’ vested interests.

Chrome Incognito Mode: Hard To Detect

The Incognito mode currently works by disabling Chrome’s FileSystem API. This API is typically used by applications to store temporary and permanent files. When users disable this API by accessing the sites in incognito mode, it does not leave behind any permanent files.

So, if websites go ahead to check Chrome’s API, they will know immediately that users are accessing their site in the private mode. Most of them then proceed to take action against such users by blocking their use of this mode or blocking them out altogether.

Paywalled sites like The Boston Globe are particularly harsh against users opting for this mode for accessing their site because it enables them to bypass the site owners’ paid subscriptions.

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According to 9to5Google, the search giant is finally offering a solution to fix this loophole now, despite having known about it for a long time. New commits made to Chrome’s Gerrit source code management point towards the search giant taking baby steps in this direction already.

When prompted by websites to provide its FileSytem API, Google will henceforth only generate a temporary or virtual file system with a computer’s RAM. When the users leave the incognito mode, the file system will be deleted automatically. Meaning thereby that third party sites will have no means to know about Chrome’s disabled API.

Google will thus make sure that all current methods used by site owners to block the incognito mode will come to an end by making it harder for them to know about the users’ disabled FileSystem API.

The scheduled date for Chrome’s Incognito detection prevention feature has not yet been disclosed. Developers looking into this project however are hopeful of being able to make it available for Chrome 74’s Canary build with a flag on April 23, before being enabled by default “2 milestones” later (or Chrome 76) on July 30.

This might, however, be a temporary development because sources at 9to5Google have gone on to suggest that the search giant might be working towards getting rid of the FileSytem API altogether.

This step by the tech giant reaffirms its commitment towards safeguarding user privacy. Earlier this month, Google had informed that it now blocks out 100 million spam messages from invading the inboxes of Gmail users every day with the help of its ML network TensorFlow.

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