Google could collect user data while in incognito mode, study finds


Be careful when surfing the internet in incognito mode—your browsing data may not be as private as you think.

According to a study released Tuesday by Digital Content Next, Google could retroactively link incognito mode browsing on Chrome to specific users.

If a person logs into a Google service before exiting out of incognito mode, the company could potentially tie the data together. According to the study’s author, Google has the information necessary to make the connection.

A Google spokesperson told AdAge that the company does not connect incognito activity with Google account information after you’ve exited your private session. “[O]ur ads systems have no special knowledge of when Chrome is in incognito mode, or any other browser in a similar mode (ex: Safari Private Browsing, Firefox Private Browsing),” she said. 

The spokesperson also said the report’s author, Douglas Schmidt, a computer science professor at Vanderbilt University, was once used as an expert witness for Oracle in a case against Google.

The study reported that two-thirds of Google’s data collection would be considered “passive,” a method in which an application is designed to gather information while in use, “possibly without the user’s knowledge.” Though the information is usually gathered without identifying a specific user, Google has the ability to use data from other sources to identify the individual, according to the study.

H/T AdAge

Kristina Nguyen

Kristina Nguyen

Kristina Nguyen is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot. She is studying journalism and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has previously contributed to Orange magazine and Silk Club's QUIET! zine.