One Google engineer joked that incognito mode isn’t very incognito

The latest trend in the Online Business is to not use a Spy Guy icon, and stop referring to Incognito as “Incognito.”

Google is being sued in May after it was revealed that the company mislead users by telling them they were safe while using Chrome’s Incognito browsing mode. And while those allegations are concerning, one of the more eye-brow raising details to emerge from the lawsuit is the Google employees’ questionable jokes about the issue.

It was also revealed in court that a very serious email from Google’s marketing chief, Lorraine Twohill, was sent to CEO Sundar Pichai.

“Protecting your privacy is key to a healthy, happy existence,” Twohill wrote in the email last year, as quoted in a recent Bloomberg article. “We find it limiting how strongly we can market our Incognito mode because it’s not truly private. Thus, we use more subtle language like ‘fuzzy’ and ‘hedging’ that are more detrimental than helpful.”

Jokes Can Be Misunderstood

As the trial for Alphabet’s lawsuit against Google unfolded, many of their communications were revealed in court documents, including an example of an internal email that revealed that the company’s outward demeanor on its Incognito Chrome mode was suspect and misleading.

The emails that have been revealed by court documents in the pending trial show that Google’s engineering staff thought their outward appearance of Incognito mode was suspicious and misleading.

Incognito mode is what’s called a private or anonymous browser session, meaning the browser itself doesn’t retain any data about you. However, some users are confounded with what what does it actually mean for this mode to be truly “private.” It also caused confusion for Chrome feature engineers because it’s technically not a true incognito mode and often leads to false assumptions in many user-generated guides.

Another engineer responded by linking to a Wikipedia page of an “The Simpsons” character called Guy Incognito, who looks exactly like Homer Simpson — if he had a bad disguise.

Regardless of their name, the incognito icon should have always been called “Guy Incognito.” This was an accurate name choice to represent the level of privacy it provides.

Yikes. That’s a pretty damning insight into how much Google believed in the browsing mode’s privacy — or, at least, not a lot did.

As of November 6th, Google is being sued by an absolutely incredible group of individuals. They’re suing Google for illegally tracking users. The lawsuit is happening in Dutch court, but it’s because of this case that Google is going to reveal what data they are storing from people using the Incognito mode on Chrome. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome!

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