Google Chrome Incognito a bit more cognito than it should be

Here's an interesting experiment you can do with the Google Chrome browser and its Incognito mode - a mode where everything you do is forgotten by the browser at the moment of exit.Or is it?

Here's an interesting experiment you can do with the Google Chrome browser and its Incognito mode - a mode where everything you do is forgotten by the browser at the moment of exit.

Or is it?

Try this.

Open an Incognito session under Chrome (it's under the spanner icon on the right hand side). Type in a site you haven't visited before (I used www.lemonade.com, as that beverage is to hand). Zoom in a few times using shift +. Exit the Incognito session - then start a new one and go back to the same site. You'll probably find that it starts up at the same zoom level at which you left it last time - which means Incognito is remembering that you were there before.

This was reported at Sun support engineer Lewis Thompson's blog, and swiftly replicated by a number of readers, including yours truly. For the record, I went as far as closing down everything and rebooting, only to find the zoom level remembered - which means that whatever state the browser is remembering, it's on the hard disk somewhere and is thus plainly vulnerable to third parties who might want to find out what you've been up to.

Incognito mode is designed specifically to prevent this, so this is A Bug. Google has offered useful sums of hard cash to developers who report a Chrome bug - and Thompson says he reported this a month or so ago, with no response to date.

How serious is this? The bug itself is fairly bad, as it directly breaks the raison d'etre of Incognito, although it may not be one with consequences most of the time. Those consequences, although rare, may be very serious.

What's badder is that Google has made no response after a month. It is clear enough, this far into Google's big game of throwing stuff out for free because it's cool, that the company has not solved the problem of dealing with that strategy's own consequences - which is that people will use the googlestuff, find problems, and then want to do something about them. That part of the deal will not scale with bigger datacentres and snazzier algorithms: it needs a large number of people with world-class information management behind them. To some extent, the information management can make the people work more cleverly, but you do need the people - because they're dealing with other people.

If Google really wants to get the rest of us believing in its true mettle, it has to fix this one - otherwise our experience of the company will soon be one of broken promises, disappointment and frustration.

That is old, old news in this game.

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