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Stanford student explains why Google Incognito mode doesn't really hide your searches

“In the least shocking reveal of all time, it was proven that it’s really not that private.”

incognito mode, google settlement, google incognito

A man using his laptop in Incognito mode.

If you were comfortable thinking there would be no evidence of your online activity while in Google’s Incognito mode, think again. According to a class-action lawsuit filed by Florida resident William Byatt and California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen, Google has been sharing your searches and selling your data, even while using Incognito mode.

On December 30, NPR reported that Google agreed to settle the $5 billion lawsuit that claims it misled users into believing that their activities weren’t being tracked while in Incognito mode.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers pointed out that Google never told its users it continued to collect data even when people were browsing in Incognito mode.


"Google’s motion hinges on the idea that plaintiffs consented to Google collecting their data while they were browsing in private mode,” Rogers ruled. “Because Google never explicitly told users that it does so, the Court cannot find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the at-issue data collection."

The settlement terms have not been made public and still need to be approved by a federal judge. The plaintiffs say they will send a final settlement agreement to a judge by February 24.

News of the settlement went viral on TikTok on January 18 thanks to a post by Thunder Keck (@thunder_keck) that has received over 435,000 views. According to his TikTok profile, he’s a Stanford football player who’s also an expert in the Dark Web.

@thunder_keck

google is always watching

“In the least shocking reveal of all time, it was proven that [Ingognito mode is] not that private. They’re still tracking you and selling your data,” Thender Keck revealed. “Incognito mode and private browsing on Safari is basically the same as clearing your history,” he added.

"And most importantly, anyone on your network with a tool like Wireshark can still see everything you're doing, Even if you’re using a VPN,” he warned, “it will still deliver your packets and use fingerprinting to figure out what sites you’re visiting. And that’s getting way easier with AI.”

Wireshark is a network protocol analyzer that allows users to see everything happening on a network at a “microscopic level.”

The post received many comments from people who fear their histories will be made public.

"I’m cooked," schizophrenic idiot wrote. "It’s so over for me," Aton agreed. “I hope my mom doesn't find out," elcee4 added.

After Google reached the settlement agreement, it doesn’t appear the company has changed its policies. Instead, it has changed the warning users receive in Incognito mode.

According to The Verge, here’s the new warning: “Others who use this device won’t see your activity, so you can browse more privately. This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google. Downloads, bookmarks and reading list items will be saved. Learn more.”

The previous message reads: "Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads, bookmarks and reading list items will be saved. Learn more."

Image from YouTube video.

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