Internally, the Incognito mode is not unanimous at Google. Some employees even openly laugh at it.
The incognito mode (private browsing in French) present on many Google tools is controversial, including internally. As part of a lawsuit accusing Google of having discreetly collected a lot of user data, exchanges have been made public, revealing the vision of certain employees of the Mountain View firm on this option with a very equivocal logo.
Whether on Chrome, Maps or other Google tools, we often find an incognito mode represented by a logo with a Fedora and glasses. This refers to the imagination of the spy in a trench coat who hides behind his newspaper so as not to be seen. But are we really hidden behind this private navigation? Not really.
Google’s private browsing simply does not save information locally on the user’s PC, smartphone or tablet. However, some imagine that they will leave no trace of their passage. However, switching to private browsing will not prevent your ISP, Google or the sites in question from tracking your every move.
Rififi at Google
Aware of this discrepancy, some Google employees seem to be pushing for more clarity around this option. In an exchange between Lorraine Twohill (Head of Marketing) and Sundar Pichai (CEO) unearthed by Bloomberg, the former asks the latter “to stop calling it Incognito and using the spy icon“.
The argument deployed is not so much about user privacy as about the image problems it can cause. “We are limited in how we can market [le mode] Private Browsing because it’s not actually private, which requires very fuzzy language, which is almost more damaging“, she specifies.
Another collaborator laughs and compares this mode to Guy Incognito, a character from The Simpsons that looks just like Homer Simpson with a mustache. “This accurately conveys the level of privacy it provides“, he quips.
In this lawsuit, Google defends itself by explaining that the precise functioning of the Private Browsing mode is public knowledge and that the plaintiffs have “deliberately misinterpreted statements[de Google] “. Next Tuesday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Oakland Court will deliver her verdict. Google could thus be forced to pay 100 to 1000 dollars in damages to the tens of millions of users of Incognito mode.