How Do Google Incognito Mode Updates Impact Private Browsing Tracking?

Privacy is a hotbed issue in the digital era as more and more online users are becoming aware of data breaches and risks. That is why many browsers are designed with a privacy-first emphasis a-la DuckDuckGo. Google Chrome, the search engine giant’s premiere browser software, is also instituting some major privacy related changes to reduce private browser tracking.

Google has announced that new updates to Chrome’s Incognito Mode will patch private browsing tracking loopholes by the end of 2019, specifically limiting cookies and tracking through Chrome’s FileSystem API. According to Barb Palser, Partner Development Manager of News and Web Partnerships at Google, the change is designed to further security for individuals that rely on private browsing for safe and secure online use.

The final updates will effectively close the FileSystem API in Incognito Mode, which allows news publishers and other content sites to effective track how many free articles a user reads before they need a paid subscription. The current API allows publishers to track data and monitor free articles regardless of private or non-private browsing history.

How do private browsing tracking impact online users and content publishers?

Palser explains that the new changes could allow online users to take advantage of the new update to read more free articles without a paid subscription for a news service or publisher. She also stated that private browsing can be an attempt by the end user to “reset” their free article count:

The change will affect sites that use the FileSystem API to intercept Incognito Mode sessions and require people to log in or switch to normal browsing mode, on the assumption that these individuals are attempting to circumvent metered paywalls.

Unlike hard paywalls or registration walls, which require people to log in to view any content, meters offer a number of free articles before you must log in. This model is inherently porous, as it relies on a site’s ability to track the number of free articles someone has viewed, typically using cookies. Private browsing modes are one of several tactics people use to manage their cookies and thereby “reset” the meter count.

What could the privacy changes mean for online marketers, publishers, and businesses?

Palser recommended that newspapers and similar online publishers enhance paywall security, add free registration forms, or enhance their paywall as a universal site adjustment. She added “We suggest publishers monitor the effect of the FileSystem API change before taking reactive measures since any impact on user behavior may be different than expected and any change in meter strategy will impact all users, not just those using Incognito Mode.”

However, the changes could have implications for other businesses and websites that rely on cookies to tracking behavior and enhance marketing potential. If search engine users are relying on a more secure browsing experience, then relevant, high-quality content could soon be a difference maker for online marketers.

Keyword-rich, high-quality, specifically tailored content for online users may be the best way to entice audiences as well as rank higher in SERPs. If you have any questions about SEO, Google Search changes, and other online marketing factors please request a free SEO audit and consultation from Boston Web Marketing!

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