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Locking Chrome Incognito Tabs Could Soon Bolster Privacy For Android

chrome beta 86 icons overflow Android DG AH 2020
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Quite aside from visual updates like Material You in Chrome for Android and behind-the-scenes security changes, Googlers are also working to ensure privacy, including adding locking Incognito Mode tabs. That’s based on recent reports stemming from changes spotted in the Chromium Gerrit code repository.

As might be expected, the code doesn’t reveal a whole lot. And it’s far from ready for release. But it does point to intriguing features, at the very least for mobile users.

What would locking Incognito Mode tabs do for Chrome Android?

Now, the gist of the changes is straightforward. The code change is labeled “Enable device reauthentication for Incognito” in the repository. And its descriptor points to a new option in Settings under Privacy and Security. Namely, an option that requires “authentication” in order to access existing “Incognito tabs” on Android.

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Ultimately, this change appears in line with another update recently released for iOS users. One that locks access to Incognito tabs behind verification using Apple’s biometrics. Namely, Face ID. But it may work a bit differently for Android users.

Not least of all, not every Android handset supports facial recognition or even fingerprint scanning. So Android may also come with additional, non-biometric-based options. Such as a password or PIN. Or it may ultimately require users to have one of those two biometrics hardware options to gain access. In either case, what this does is presumably block anybody from opening Incognito tabs in Chrome that are already in use unless the user proves that they’re the phone’s owner.

This is still a long way out

As of this writing, however, the new feature is still tucked behind a flag setting found at the “chrome://flags” URL. And that flag setting doesn’t actually turn anything on just yet either, in addition to only being available on the Canary Channel. Indicating that this feature is still very much in the early stages of testing. As such, users probably shouldn’t expect that it will arrive on Android in the near future. With at least an update or two likely separating this test period and release.

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As for other platforms, there’s also been no indication that this will be pushed on desktop platforms, including Chrome OS. Although that does seem as though it would be the next logical step for Google to take.