Chrome update lets people get around paywalls with new incognito mode

Publishers have previously been alerted when people use the private browsing mode

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 31 July 2019 15:44 BST
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Google is updating Chrome to make it impossible for websites to see if visitors are using a private browsing mode
Google is updating Chrome to make it impossible for websites to see if visitors are using a private browsing mode (Getty Images)

Google has updated its Chrome web browser to prevent websites see when visitors are using Incognito Mode, making it easier for people to bypass paywalls on websites.

The latest update is designed to improve users' privacy by preventing websites from monitoring when people are using the private browsing feature.

"We want you to be able to access the web privately, with the assurance that your choice to do so is private as well," Google explained in a blog post introducing the update.

"In situations such as political oppression or domestic abuse, people may have important safety reasons for concealing their web activity and their use of private browsing features."

The update comes after a study revealed that 93 per cent of pornography websites collect user data and share it with third parties, even when people are using private browsing modes.

One of the consequences of the update is that it will affect some web publishers who monitor visitors using Incognito Mode to ensure they are not able to get around metered paywall.

Certain news publishers and other websites offer a limited amount of free content before a visitor has to pay for a subscription.

In order to get around this limit, some people use Incognito Mode to make it appear as though they have never visited the website before.

Recently, websites started looking for when users were in the private browsing mode and banning them from viewing the website if they were.

The new Chrome update will mean websites who protect their paywall by blocking people who use Incognito Mode will no longer be able to.

In its blog post, Google said that people's privacy must be prioritised over the income streams of online publishers.

"Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognise the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode," Google said.

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