Google Chrome’s built-in private browsing feature Incognito Mode can still be detected and blocked by websites, according to a report from ZDNet.
Incognito Mode allows users to browse on Chrome without having information such as their history, cookies, or site data saved.
The feature does not block network administrators or ISPs from viewing the activity and location of a user or prevent websites from serving ads based on your activity during the Incognito session itself.
Nonetheless, certain website administrators are blocking visitors when they use the feature, likely due to the impact on their revenue streams.
Incognito Mode can be used to circumvent content paywalls by making it possible for readers to access an unlimited amount of free articles.
It also blocks websites from tracking user activity and locations which prevents them from monetising their traffic for advertising.
Google previously attempted to clamp down on website operators using scripts to block Incognito users with its release of Chrome 76.
Before this browser version, administrators were able to detect whether a visitor was using the feature through a query to the FileSystem API.
The updated browser activated FileSystem API for Incognito Mode, which made existing scripts at the time useless.
However, the fix was temporary, as it turned out Google had merely added a 120MB limit on the amount of storage space windows in Incognito Mode were able to access.
The administrators figured this out within a week of the new browser’s launch and built scripts to query the FileSystem API to detect what amount of storage space websites could access.
Scripts have been developed for Incognito modes in all Chromium-based browsers – including Edge, Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi.
Support for these scripts has also been extended to other browsers – such as Safari and Firefox.
Google last year promised it would roll out a bug for the bypass in August 2019, but none has been forthcoming.
Google facing class-action lawsuit
Google may face further pressure to tighten its Chrome browser’s privacy capability.
Bloomberg has reported a newly proposed class-action lawsuit against the company has claimed that it secretly collects user browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their privacy.
The lawsuit filed in a federal court in California explained that while Google lets users turn off data collection when using its Chrome web browser, it employs other tools – such as Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager – which are used by websites to grab this data in any case.
The accusers allege this has allowed Google to collect a trove of data that can be stolen or hacked by government and criminals.
Google spokesperson Jose Castenada told Bloomberg the company was upfront with customers that even in private browsing mode, websites may still be able to collect user information.