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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warning! Google Chrome incognito mode NOT incognito at all when streaming .WMV .avi and .wma media files. Privacy security failure.


Polybore Update: Easy way to view Chrome Incognito History.

In brief:
To run Google Chrome in incognito mode click on the spanner/ wrench at the top right and select- new incognito window.
However it is worth bearing in mind that there is a big privacy hole in Chrome’s Incognito mode and it effects Firefox as well.
Give it a try, launch Chrome in “Incognito mode” and stream this tiny and inoffensive Polybore .wmv file. Now check your Internet Explorer browsing history.
Try it with Firefox. Same behaviour again. Even if you never use IE it will keep a history of .avi and wmv files streamed with Chrome or Firefox. If you regularly delete your Firefox history or use Chrome “Incognito”, you are going to have to open up IE and clear it out as well.
This makes a complete nonsense of Google’s description of “Incognito”.
The full story:
Polybore was going to to a humorous post about Chrome Incognito mode and having to write a Privacy Policy for a website.
After messing around with Chrome in incognito mode, streaming .wmv video files off the Polybore server, it was time to get to work on the Privacy Policy with MS Word 2003.
At the insert  hyperlink menu Polybore was surprised to find that Word had, in the recent browsing history, links to the files that had been streamed with Chrome in the so called Incognito mode. Very strange thought Polybore, Word2003 is aware of what Chrome has been streaming “Incognito”?
On further investigation, sure enough, there in Internet Explorer 8’s browsing history were the links to the files streamed in “Incognito Mode” by Chrome.
The only reference Polybore could find to this behaviour after a Google search was this
Having read that, we can say this happens with Google Chrome and Firefox with IE7 and IE8.
Google and Firefox need to flag this behaviour up to users or stop it entirely. Indeed Chrome’s Incognito mode just does not do what Google says it does and that is seriously misleading. Get it sorted Google.
In the mean time if you are using Chrome or Firefox to stream .avi or .wmv, and privacy is important to you, make sure you delete Internet Explorers history as well.
Further to continued testing can report that this also happens with streamed .wma music as well. So essentially if Chrome or Firefox uses Windows Media Player to stream media then Internet Explorer history will reflect this, Incognito or not.


  1. Thanks for this - although after the Adsense Privacy thing I'm not all that surprised.

    Do we bend over and take it from the big G for $0.17 per click and some moving tabs?

    I've stopped using Chrome and removed AdSense from my blog. I feel bad for the casual web users who are getting the "Google enema" without even knowing it.

    ~~"Ooh look, a pretty Toolbar!"

  2. Just read your blog re ingognito mode chrome. Have checked my IE 8 history and it has not saved anything I have done in Chrome including your video. Also downloaded several other videos and watched them, they to do not show up. Can you explain.

  3. If indeed the comment of April 30, 2009 10:48am is true then is there a way that you can still track the browsing history in chrome?

  4. Have checked again. Chrome incognito still saves history of streamed .wmv etc files in internet explorer on my system. WindowsXP SP3, IE7, Chrome, Windows Media Player 11.

    Other people get this behaviour as well

    Not sure why this does not happen in your system.

    Regarding tracking Chrome Incognito history, one way to do it would be to turn on Google History Because Google history is server side it does not matter what the privacy settings are on the browser.

  5. I just checked -- neither IE nor Firefox record ANY of my Chrome activity, incognito or not, in their histories. You must have some weird settings on your computer.

  6. Why not just use CCleaner to scrub it off? Maybe some of the people without histories are using this software or similar.

  7. Could this be caused by the setting in Windows Media Player "Save file and URL history in the Player" ?

    Mind you, you are right though Google should flag this ...

  8. Thanks for the comment Annonymous. Even with the "Save file and URL history in the Player" option unchecked in WMP11 the streamed file still appears in IE8 history. At least on polybore's PC.

  9. Here'sJeff yes that would be one way to do it (using cc cleaner) however the user needs to be aware of the issue before they can clear it up.

    As for the settings on polybore's PC. Chrome incognito has exhibited this behaviour before and after a complete XP reinstall. Polybore has not changed any default installation settings for Windows XP, IE8 or Chrome (except WMP as detailed in previous comment not that that changed anything).

    Others can replicate this Chrome Incognito behaviour. If Incognito is truly Incognito on your PC let us know your settings and maybe we can work out what is going on.

  10. Could this have something to do with how Chrome plays videos?

    My Chrome used to play wmv files in their own browser tabs, but for some unknown and unfortunate reason, it recently started playing wmv files in an actual Windows Media Player window. I checked my IE history, and it shows your sample wmv from Chrome's Incognito mode.

    Perhaps files that play in Windows Media Player proper are the ones that are logged in IE8, and files that are played in a Chrome tab are not.

  11. My pet peeve is that 'incognito' implies that remote web sites won't know who you are. But cookies are shared between incognito windows so each window is not incognito at all! To be truly incognito, the mode should start with no cookies, not share them between windows, and delete any that are created at the end of the session.

    This would be really useful, for example to use GMail with two different identities at the same time, which would enable users to have a shared mailbox open at the same time as personal email.

  12. Browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the websites you've visited. The websites you visit may still have records of your visit. Any files saved to your computer will still remain on your computer.
    For example, if you sign into your Google Account on while in incognito mode, your subsequent web searches are recorded in your Google Web History. In this case, to prevent your searches from being stored in your Google Account, you'll need to pause your Google Web History tracking.

  13. Use the VLC plugin.

    It's free and open source.

    This prevents windows media player recording your history.


  15. Uhg, for real, here I am trying to find a way to see the history!!! So I can check on my childrens use of the computer!! If something has to be secret you shouldn't be doing it! I wish there was no incognito at all!!

  16. If your worried about your children then stop criticising incognito functions of websites and start policing what your kids view yourself. Incognito has good uses and there is nothing wrong with a bit of 'normal' porn for adults! Kids can easily clear settings after viewing porn and if you are going to allow your kids on the net it is your responsibility to make sure they can't scar themselves for life! You have to be an idiot not too realise what a child can view on the net (death, sick twisted porn and other messed up stuff). Finding out after the fact isn't going to help your child get over seeing some messed up stuff on the net!

    "If something has to be secret you shouldn't be doing it!"

    STFU... Privacy is privacy!

  17. what formats is porn does it gte recorded too?
    slutload porn mainly

  18. Okay, maybe this has to do with something new, but it really could just be the fact that the video has to be downloaded. Anything you download in incognito is remembered. If you're going to download something of course it's going to show up somewhere on your computer.
    Personally I love chrome, and I think incognito mode is cool.

  19. thanks for the heads up about this bug. although i think you're blaming the wrong entity. this is more IE being nosy and archiving files that are none of its business, rather than chrome, which seems to be doing fine in erasing its own history. what more can it do? it would be a huge task if it had to account for every single other application on the internet. IE needs to stop trying to take over my comp.

  20. The poster above is correct. I run Chrome FF & IE in their private modes by default.

    Today I watched a wmv video using my default viewer VLC, and was amazed to see that it appeared in the IE history for today.

    This absolutely NOT a Chrome issue, it is an IE privacy invasion issue

    1. No offence meant, but the comment seemed funny to me. If chrome cannot provide a priper privacy mode, then it is chromes problem.
      It is like you providing an open window for others to peek and blaming that 'others' for privacy violation. If you need bullet proof privacy, then you need to make sure others dont have the open window to peek. Likewise, if chrome claims incognito mode, then chrome should make sure IE or media player cannot infiltrate the privacy.

  21. Found another option worth checking out for viewing videos in private mode: