Blocking Chrome’s Incognito Tabs may soon improve Android’s privacy

Blocking Chrome's Incognito Tabs may soon improve Android's privacy

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. 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.

Aside from cosmetic enhancements like as Material You in Chrome for Android and behind-the-scenes security changes, Googlers are also trying to preserve privacy, such as by closing Incognito Mode tabs. This is according to recent reports based on modifications discovered in the Chromium Gerrit source repository. The code, as one might imagine, does not reveal anything. And it’s far from ready for public consumption. However, it does allude to some fascinating aspects, at least for mobile users.


  • 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. 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.

  • 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.