Can you be incognito on Google’s Chrome?

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Google launched its new internet browser, Chrome, today taking on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla’s Foxfire and Apple’s Safari. While many reviewers, like Walter Mossberg, were comparing it with the others on speed and functionality, they ought to be asking another question.

Does Google’s Chrome allow a user to keep personal data private or does the browser enhance the company’s ability to gather and store users’ personal data?

A troublesome aspect of Google’s operations is the way it gathers information on what you’ve been searching for and what words appear in e-mails so it can target advertising.

Chrome allows a user to operate in so-called "incognito mode."  However, that’s about not leaving information on the computer about what sites have been visited by the user, rather than about not sending such information to Google.

Chrome’s privacy policy says the browser sends URLs or search queries to Google. In other words they can know where you’ve been and what you’re looking for.  The statement goes on to say you can opt out of this feature.

Of course the default is that the information is sent and most folks won’t ever get around to reading the privacy policy and opting out.

And there’s this kicker:

"You may choose Google as your search engine using Google Chrome, and you may also use Google Chrome to access other Google services such as Gmail.  The Privacy Policies of Gmail or other services apply when you access them, no matter which browser you use.  Using Google Chrome to connect to Google services will not cause Google to receive any special or additional personally identifying information about you."

So if you’ve opted out on Chrome and use Google’s others services, they’ll gather your data that way.

In other words, "incognito mode" keeps your information away from folks who use the same computer.  Google will continue to gather data the way it always has and that’s exactly the problem.

Consumer Watchdog
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