Last week, Google announced that it’ll start rolling out Incognito mode in Google Maps. Since then, tech sites have been writing articles about how the new Incognito mode protects you - or more precisely - how it doesn’t.Incognito mode has been one of the most popular privacy controls since it was launched with Chrome in 2008. A recent study by IBM’s Institute for Business Values shows that 81% of consumers have become more concerned with how companies are using their data - in theory. Seventy-one percent of consumers are still willing to give up privacy to get access to what technology can offer, and maybe that’s why Incognito mode is so popular.
Whether you’re using Incognito mode in Chrome or Google Maps, you’re mostly just hiding your search history from yourself. With Incognito mode in Google Maps, your Maps activity on that device, like the places you search for, won’t be saved to your Google Account and won’t be used to personalize your Maps experience. However, when you turn on Incognito mode a message warns, "Turning on Incognito Mode in Maps does not affect how your activity is used or saved by internet providers, other apps, voice search, and other Google services." In other words, it’s just hiding you from you.
So, what’s the point of Incognito mode? According to Google, the point is to make privacy and security as simple, helpful, and intuitive as their products. Incognito mode may not affect how your activity is used or saved by internet providers, other apps, voice search, and other Google services, but maybe you search for locations or visit places you don’t want to pop up on your “recently visited”, when you’re looking for nearby restaurants with your friends. This could be fertility clinics, gays bars, alcoholism support groups, or the like. Not everyone has the privilege of being completely open about sexuality or abuse, and some just prefer to keep it private. With Incognito mode this is now possible.
So, despite all the criticism, we believe that Incognito mode will be useful for a lot of people once it’s rolled out. Incognito mode will start rolling out on Android this month, with iOS coming soon.