AT THIS TIME of year, the ability to 'find presents for the wife' on the internet (see video) is more important than ever, and for Chrome users, that means turning on Incognito Mode, which, we're assured stops anything you may, erm, do on the internet from being recorded.
Except now it seems that maybe it doesn't.
Super-secure search engine DuckDuckGo has been running some tests with volunteers (the type that rarely ends well, face it) who agreed to start searching some of the more controversial topics on the go right now - gun control, vaccinations and immigration).
They were asked to try the searches logged in to their Google accounts with Incognito Mode activated and logged out.
We can tell by the way you've sat upright in your chair - you can guess what's coming.
Everyone got different results. Which suggests that Google still personalises (and therefore has access to) your searches. Yes, even that one you did that night that when you'd just been dumped and you were full of Cinzano and self-loathing.
The report (uploaded to Github, those crazy guys) explains: "Most people expect both being logged out and going "incognito" to provide some anonymity. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception as websites use IP addresses and browser fingerprinting to identify people that are logged out or in private browsing mode.'
"If search results were more anonymous in these states, then we would expect everyone's private browsing mode results to be similar. That's not what we saw."
In response, a Google spokesperson told INQ: "This study's methodology and conclusions are flawed since they are based on the assumption that any difference in search results are based on personalization. That is simply not true.
"In fact, there are a number of factors that can lead to slight differences, including time and location, which this study doesn't appear to have controlled for effectively."
It's a fair bet that Google will purr that this is purely operational and that it would never actually look at the records, but it's gentlemen's relish in the eye if you were ever hoping that Chrome Incognito gives you anonymity.
The revelation has repercussions beyond itself. After all, if Google is still personalising, no matter what you do - how do you ever hope to escape that viewpoint bubble you find yourself in? Unless you want to live in a world where everyone seems to agree with you, all the time, you might want to find a completely anonymised browser, and this, seemingly, isn't that. μ
The week in Google in brief
Sega hedgehogging its bets
And not a purple duck in sight