Google has announced that it will be closing loopholes that allowed for websites to detect when you were browsing the Web using Google Chrome in incognito mode. The specific loophole Google is referring to is the filesystem API loophole which some websites used in order to stop you from viewing content that they intended to be locked behind a paywall—aka content that you needed to become a subscriber to view. Such content is now becoming increasingly popular from large news outlets such as The Times, who has a strong enough readership whereby they would agree to lay down money to read it, because of the rising number of ad-blocking schemes.
Websites could use the API loophole to detect when you were browsing their websites from incognito mode, which means you were no longer browsing the Web anonymously, as the way the incognito mode was intended.
Without them publicly announcing it, It’s hard to say why Google is choosing to make the change. There has been a lot of kerfuffle about privacy concerns with Google lately as I’m sure you’re all aware, and many are even choosing to flee to vastly inferior search engines to avoid Google’s tracking. By ensuring an incognito mode that is truly a private browsing experience, they’re continuing to offer users a way to roam the internet without being tracked by cookies, which should only be a good thing. However, there are also some other things worth considering.
Google being a company that makes most of its revenue indirectly from the Google search engine, doesn’t want publishers only to offer content behind paywalls. What makes Google’s revenue is publishers providing free content and then surrounding that content with ads. That’s not to suggest publishers like us are foolish, though: it does seem as though, while we remain a small and independent site at least, that the most revenue would be created by using ads rather than forced subscriptions. Thus, while Google isn’t likely attempting to force publishers away from subscription fees, it doesn’t have any particular reason to support such an idea.