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Suppose that someone browses non-Youtube videos (like on Vimeo) in Google Chrome's Incognito mode.

  1. Does Google collect and store any data about this activity ("watched videos on Vimeo" activity)?

  2. In general, does Google store ANYTHING that is done in Incognito mode?

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    Chrome does not log user activity at that level – schroeder Nov 8 '20 at 9:52
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    Not through Chrome --- are you suggesting, "perhaps by any other means but not through Chrome"? – Jay Shah Nov 8 '20 at 9:59
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    Isn't the real Question, why? You should assume that anyone who can, logs everything possible… including what you're worried about, unless there's a specific reason to drop this or that particular worry. Aren't why that's stored and what might be done with it more important? – Robbie Goodwin Nov 8 '20 at 23:10
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    "Does Google collect and store data about ... ?". Yes. – Eric Duminil Nov 10 '20 at 21:16
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I think you need to distinguish between "Google" and "Chrome".

Chrome is a browser and the main feature of the Incognito mode is to delete any locally stored information from the browser session after the Incognito mode was closed. The point here is locally stored because this is all the browser can fully control.

Google is instead a company which among others things collects information about the users behavior by being included with Google Analytics or Doubleclick into many websites. This is similar how other companies like Facebook or the various ad and tracking networks are included into the websites. And this kind of data collection is also independent from the browser you use, although some browsers have special features or some extensions can be added to reduce the amount of tracking and profiling.

This remote data collection does not stop when the browser is in Incognito mode. In fact, usually these ad and tracking networks are not even aware that Incognito mode is used. What is different though is that tracking information from the "normal" mode and Incognito mode cannot be easily associated with each other, so the profiling done in Incognito mode is mostly independent from the profiling done in normal mode or from profiling done in other Incognito sessions.

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    @JayShah: Tracking is not only done by the search engine and also Google is not only tracking using the search engine. It is primarily done by visible or invisible snippets on the majority of websites, i.e. Facebook like buttons, ads, ... - see for example here for more information. – Steffen Ullrich Nov 8 '20 at 12:32
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    @JayShah, a good way to think of Incognito mode is that you installed a brand-new browser for the purpose of visiting that one site, and uninstalled it once you were done. – Mark Nov 8 '20 at 20:14
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    "tracking information from the "normal" mode and Incognito mode cannot be easily associated with each other, so the profiling done in Incognito mode is mostly independent from the profiling done in normal mode or from profiling done in other Incognito sessions" -> more and more companies now resort to using IP addresses to "match" users to circumvent limitations on the usual cookie-based tracking. This has nasty side effects, as I now regularly see ads for products my partner has been looking at, for instance. – jcaron Nov 9 '20 at 10:16
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    @jcaron not just IP addresses. Look at AmIUnique for example, that looks at a whole load of things about your browser to determine whether you are "unique" or not and can then be used to match up a user to their browsing history. – crazyloonybin Nov 9 '20 at 10:24
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    I don't blame OP for holding the misconception that Google and Chrome were more closely connected, but it certainly makes me feel uneasy that they are dominating the market enough to generate that misconception. – Nonny Moose Nov 9 '20 at 22:42
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Advertising vendors can and do keep and collate every bit of information they can, which is a lot, and can (and therefore presumably do) associate your activity in Incognito mode with your other activity.

This can be done through your IP address, together with machine-specific information (for example operating system and screen size), which will be the same for both.

Information they can use:

  • IP address
  • Operating system and version, and browser version
  • Screen size
  • Available fonts - these can be detected by rendering text to an off-screen canvas then hashing the resulting graphic.
  • Anything available from their partner organisations which you accessed in the same Incognito session.
  • Your interests and activity itself. If you see a link in normal mode, they may well know you saw it, and when, and with what device. If it is shortly after accessed in Incognito mode from the same IP address, they may reasonably (and probably correctly) conclude it is still you but in Incognito mode.

This is more than enough to distinguish between devices using the same IP address. Once they've identified the device, then can associate it back to you, and back to your other devices, via your normal browsing.

So it's possible, and because it's possible, I assume that they do it, since that's how they make their money.

And since Google is first and foremost an advertising vendor, I include Google in that.

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    Surely porn sites use these techniques since many users use the incognito mode, not so much for advertisements, but to be able to recommend relevant videos. – J. Doe Nov 9 '20 at 19:18
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    @JayShah since Google is first and foremost an advertising vendor, I include Google in that. I don't know they track you across incognito mode, but they can, and I would bet they do, even if only via a wholly owned subsidiary like DoubleClick. – Ben Nov 10 '20 at 7:14
  • panopticlick is a website from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which will show you all the information that can be used to identify your browser panopticlick.eff.org – craq Nov 11 '20 at 0:39
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The short answer to your question is: yes, Google does collect and store data about activity done in Incognito mode. It might not store data about all activity done in Incognito mode, but certainly some. Not because “Google Chrome”, the cross-platform web browser, is developed by Google, but because – as MooingDuck already pointed out – almost every website you visit will send data about your visit to Google, Facebook, and/or other advertising companies, mostly via third-party trackers. To what extent this takes place depends on your browsing habits, what sites you visit, if you are logged in to your Google account, your device's and browser's privacy settings, etc.

For more information you can have a look at this video titled “Understanding Digital Tracking” – but be aware, that YouTube is a company owned by Google, so Google will certainly track access to that video too.

  • +1 ”....but be aware, that YouTube is a company owned by Google, so Google will certainly track access to that video too.”. — I don’t know whether Vimeo sends any data to Google, but think about my question this way: Suppose you use Chrome browser and search “documentary by Valarie Kaur”. You browse some search results and click on a YouTube video. You just see a preview of the documentary, so you close YouTube. You go back, and browse for some other result. You click a link that takes you to Vimeo and you finally get a documentary titled DIVIDED WE FALL by Valarie Kaur. – Jay Shah Nov 10 '20 at 4:35
  • The moral of the story is that whether or not the website you go to is Google owned or not, your entire search history or search journey will be stored in your history tab (ctrl+h). So if Chrome stores this SEARCH JOURNEY in the history tab, and Google OWNES Chrome, I think it means Google gets the entire SEARCH JOURNEY regardless of the website sending any info to google or not. Do you see my logic? Just because Google ownes Chrome browser, and that Chrome stores our entire search history (searches, specific websites/pages/URLs visited) REGARDLESS I have a Google account or not. Your say? – Jay Shah Nov 10 '20 at 4:41
  • I forgot to add, that this question essentially asks, "If Google owns Chrome, and if Chrome stores history (I don't have google account), the history belongs to Google(whether I like it or not). Is that so if I do activities in Incognito as well? Incognito surely doesn't save anything on my computer and keeps me incognito from my family, but is my search incognito to Google?" – Jay Shah Nov 10 '20 at 6:33
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    @JayShah You are changing the scope of your question. You initial question was “Does Google collect and store data about activity done in Incognito mode?“ which has been answered extensively. Now you are asking “Does Google Chrome send search history data to Google?”. Please consider posing a new question. – marianoju Nov 10 '20 at 9:23
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    @JayShah You might want to have a look at Google Chrome Privacy Whitepaper – marianoju Nov 10 '20 at 9:26
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To extend other answers and give you a little more information on how this "remote tracking" works:

as @Ben answered, when you visit a website there are plenty of information sent to this website, not only the IP, but also screen sizes and versions of software/system used. Amount of this data is exactly why an incognito mode does not provide you with any extra protection from being identified. An example you can test and verify yourself is here: https://www.nothingprivate.ml/ - enter your name (or whatever), then fire up incognito mode and check if your name from non-incognito is correct. The backend here just stores a combination of your User-Agent string, your screen size and other stuff Ben mentioned, along with your name (or whatever).

Above is one of the reasons why a Tor Browser tries to keep everyone within the same configuration set. It even displays a warning when you change default resolution of the window - because then you stand out.

One thing incognito helps in is that it does not send any cookies that are saved in your regular browser. This certainly limits the 100% confidence of identifying you, but a big problem for general tracking anyway, unless there are a lot of people with exact same setups in your IP block area.

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TL;DR - using Incognito Mode offers more privacy in the google Chrome browser than not using it. The feature is intended to hide your actions from those who share your machine, but does little to hide you from the all-seeing googly-eye.


Does Google collect and store any data about this activity ("watched videos on Vimeo" activity)?

A quick look at the Vimeo homepage source shows resources requested from googletagmanager.com and googletagservices.com - so, yes, if you have javascript enabled then google are getting at least something from your visit.

In general, does Google store ANYTHING that is done in Incognito mode?

Private Browsing systems are generally built around the concept of hiding your history from your machine. Not on stopping the flow of valuable information to google. If you have 'SafeBrowsing' enabled for example then effectively the URLs you visit are sent to google even if they aren't logged in your history.

Google's Chrome Browser Policy for incognito mode is conspicuously silent on Installation Tracking, Promotion Tracking, or Field Trials, all of which send potentially personally identifiable information to them.

How Chrome handles your incognito or guest information

Cookies. Chrome won't share existing cookies with sites you visit in incognito or guest mode. Sites may deposit new cookies on your system while you are in these modes, but they'll only be stored and transmitted until you close the last incognito or guest window.

Browser configuration changes. When you make changes to your browser configuration, like bookmarking a web page or changing your settings, this information is saved. These changes are not affected by incognito or guest mode.

Permissions. Permissions you grant in incognito mode are not saved to your existing profile.

Profile information. In incognito mode, you will still have access to information from your existing profile, such as suggestions based on your browsing history and saved passwords, while you are browsing. In guest mode, you can browse without seeing information from any existing profiles.


This does not include the myriad of other google services which may give less detailed (but still very useful) information such as google DNS and DoH.

For all their talk, google are serial privacy abusers. In the last 12 months they've come under fire for attempts to track users between sites without 3rd-party cookies, collecting personal data without authorisation, failing to wipe cookies when told to, and privacy concerns in reCAPTCHA. Google's concept of privacy is that it is privacy from one another, not privacy from google. As Eric Schmidt famously said...

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

CNBC 'Inside The Mind of Google'

...and that was in 2009. What makes the google search product (and powers their ad platforms) is really the amount of data they have on internet users.

It's also worth pointing out that switching browsers is unlikely to be that helpful as many browsers use the Chromium codebase. When Microsoft re-worked Edge to use the Chromium engine they had to alter or remove over 50 services that supply data to google.

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