Chrome’s new incognito update will annoy websites with paywalls

The new updates makes it impossible for a website owner to know when a visitor is using incognito mode.


The latest Chrome update scheduled at the end of July might change the longstanding friendly relations shared by Google and the news outlets. After the update, news websites will no longer be able to track if a user is browsing in the ‘Incognito’ mode. It appears as if Google is now prioritizing user privacy.

For a long time, news websites tracked if a user was browsing privately through ‘Incognito’ mode where cookies cannot be collected thereby making paywalls useless. In such cases, news websites simply restricted access and asked the user to either register with them or purchase the subscription:

However, with the latest update, website owners will be unable to detect users browsing through the private ‘Incognito’ mode. This way, news websites are crippled from executing their paywalls and cannot further restrict any user from accessing their content for free using private browsing.

When the news of a developer proposing to test this new update came out in February, several news outlets have reached out to Google and complained about it ever since. However, Chrome went forward and started testing it from late April.

While news outlets felt that a loophole that exploited their content model was being promoted by Google, the tech giant is rightfully under an impression that it will enhance the privacy of its users by implementing this new update.

A source at the News Media Alliance revealed that the Google news partnership teams were unaware of the new update underway when the media alliance group discussed with them. It was later found that both the Google News and Chrome teams had collaborated to prioritize consumer privacy over the concerns of news outlets.

“This most recent move is really disappointing. What we’ve found is that the publisher team within Google is in a vertical silo; the search folks are in a vertical silo; the ad folks are in a vertical silo. The cross-over points where all the intersection happens are up at the senior executive level, where it’s hard to get anybody to pay attention,” said an executive working for a news outlet.


Naga Pramod

Naga Pramod is a computer science major and tech news reporter with a passion for cyber security, networking, and data science. [email protected]