What every parent should know about the new Google browser.

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 16 comments

Last week Google released a new browser, Chrome, making its foray into the browser world, and already it has generated a lot of buzz, and substantial downloads (for an initial beta release). 

Google Chrome’s entry is bound to raise the bar for browsers everywhere, is remarkably fast, refreshingly simple, and sports a solid set of cool features.  What’s more, it’s from Google, which means it’s likely to generate lots of attention and become widely used in a short period of time.

One of its features, however, should be brought to the attention of parents (like me) who care about technology’s ability to impact the lives of my children.

I’m talking about what Google calls “Incognito browsing”, which allows you to surf the web in a way that creates no “footprints” on your computer.  Usually, wherever you go on the internet, you leave little traces on your computer, allowing others to see where you’ve been.  But with “Incognito Browsing”, you can go anywhere you’d like, and when you’re done, nobody will know where you’ve been.  Many critics are (favorably) calling this simply “Porn Mode”.

While there is no substitute for creating what I call a “safe browsing environment”, “safe browsing guidelines”, and educating your children on (among other things) proper internet usage, parents would be wise to be aware of these kinds of features.

As Satan becomes increasingly adept in leveraging technology to create opportunities for temptation, so too should parents remain ever vigilant in being aware of these technologies.  Simply throwing up our hands because it’s “over our heads” isn’t a proper excuse.  Part of responsible parenthood is the requirement to “keep up”, and I’ll help (as will others) whenever possible.

Within Chrome, this feature is accessed by selecting “New Incognito Window” from the menu as illustrated below…

This puts you into “Incognito” mode (notice the “spy” in the top left corner below) and brings up the following description of “incognito”:

You’ve gone incognito.  Pages you view in this window won’t appear in your browser history or search history, and they won’t leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be preserved, however.

Below is a video describing Incognito Browsing:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3iCMkiezrs]

Google also lets you “pause” your web history tracking, and gives instructions on how to do that here.

 

Again, I don’t advocate “avoiding” Google Chrome, because it is a good browser, but rather being aware of it.  In truth, this kind of “private browsing” feature is something we’re going to have to deal with eventually, because not only is it in the new Google Chrome, but also in the new beta version of Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (IE8).

I’ll have a separate post on each of these in case these are the preferred browsers in your home.  To further aid parents, I’m also working on an Internet Safety for Parents post, that covers topics that I mention above, including how to create a safe browsing environment, creating safe browsing guidelines etc.

If you have additional questions, please as; I would love to help.  Otherwise, please forward the URL for this post to your friends and associates, that we may lift the web of awareness amongst all parents, and collectively combat the chasm of technology awareness that is so prominent between children and parents today.

Rusty

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert D'Alesio September 8, 2008 at 3:35 PM

If you teach your kids properly, it doesn’t matter if there is private browsing or not. If you taught your kids well and you still don’t like private browsing then you are a power-freak!

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2 Robert D'Alesio September 8, 2008 at 3:35 PM

If you teach your kids properly, it doesn’t matter if there is private browsing or not. If you taught your kids well and you still don’t like private browsing then you are a power-freak!

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3 Robert D'Alesio September 8, 2008 at 3:35 PM

If you teach your kids properly, it doesn’t matter if there is private browsing or not. If you taught your kids well and you still don’t like private browsing then you are a power-freak!

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4 Rusty Lindquist September 8, 2008 at 4:05 PM

There simply is no substitute for teaching. All the “suppression” in the world cannot replace principle based leadership by parents.

But while I’m a big fan of “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”, as parents, we’re wise to be aware. As technology increases the ability and ease with which pornographic content can be accessed, as a parent I want to know how that happens so I can offer educated guidance and protection accordingly.

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5 Jim B. September 8, 2008 at 4:08 PM

I have to agree with the Mormon on this one. If parents concerned with their children’s use of the internet are “power-freaks”, I hope to God you have no children.

Rusty,

I just downloaded Google Chrome yesterday, and had never heard of such a feature until seeing it in one of the YouTube demos. I can really conceive of no use for the feature other than for husbands and sons to conceal their digital perversions from their wives and mothers.

God Bless

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6 Rusty Lindquist September 8, 2008 at 4:38 PM

LOL.

Yeah, the “stated” aim is so that you can do things like shop for gifts for your significant other without them knowing about it. Uh-huh.

In reality, this is a result of the browser war – a fight for market penetration. One browser wants to get a strategic advantage over another and figures if they offer “private browsing” whole bunches of people will jump on board for that reason alone. Then of course, the rest just follow suit.

P.S. If you belong to any social bookmarking sites, e.g. Stumble, Digg, Del.icio.us, Technoroti, etc. please add this page so that other parents can find it too.

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7 Connor September 8, 2008 at 10:10 PM

Rusty,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had heard that the IE (Internet Explorer) was also going to have this feature and it worried me.

It is a problem of enabling temptation. This just makes the temptation that much stronger because our kids and ourselves can think that we can’t get caught. That is one of the adversaries greatest lies.

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8 ponderingpastor September 9, 2008 at 6:08 AM

Rusty is right, and actually “behind the curve” just a bit. On my computer, I’ve had settings to delete cookies, history, etc. every time I close the browser. That way I’m not bogging down my system. This is not new, it is being made more convenient.

True story: I know a family whose teenage daughter was being pressured by friends into having sex with a boyfriend. She was getting so much pressure (usually using IM) that her father decided to get a key logger and screenshot program installed on her computer. The information gained in that way was helpful in supporting his daughter and influencing the direction she eventually took.

When it comes to your kids, you’ve got to be on top of things. They just don’t understand the danger.

Pondering Pastor

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9 Velska September 9, 2008 at 9:33 AM

I’m a geek and think that whatever you can do to increase parents’ tech savvy is good. Still, the kids are going to be away from home, too. So you have to talk to them about the *real* dangers in the world (many of them not found on the Internet).

BTW Incognito Browsing can save a life of a dissident in totalitarian country and there are much sneakier ways of pulling it off (your 16-yo son probably knows this). Anyway, it’s not all for pornography.

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10 Margaret September 9, 2008 at 11:46 AM

I really appreciate all the info here. I have sent a link to this thread to my kids. My oldest grandson is 14 and getting into email, etc and his parents need to be aware of this. Maybe some genius programmer out there can find a way for parents to still be aware of what their kids are doing. All the teaching and example in the world doesn’t always overcome peer pressure and temptation.

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11 mormonsoprano September 9, 2008 at 12:39 PM

Thank you Rusty for making me aware of this. Velska offered an interesting benefit of the feature – however, for most using the browser it is going to open up another pornography pit to suck victims in. Children often experiment with something like this technology and then develop a serious addiction. Satan’s work is done in “dark and secret and hidden places”. This new technology offers a way to become ‘hidden’ even in brightest daylight. It’s good to be aware. Knowledge is power for parents & children…. unfortunately, informative posts like these also run the risk of becoming a l “how-to” lesson for participation. Ultimately though, it is very important to get the word out. So thanks again.

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12 Bob Loblaw September 9, 2008 at 9:40 PM

While this feature is new to many PC users, Safari (Mac’s browser) has had a private browsing feature for years. (BTW it is the fastest browser out there and is now compatible with windows. Don’t waste your time with Chrome).

Rusty thanks for your efforts, I really enjoy the blog. I think the key to internet use is locating the computer in a main room of the house, using an effective content filter, and being willing to talk to your kids about the dangers of pornography addiction. This link contains some interesting statistics: http://www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php

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13 Rusty Lindquist September 10, 2008 at 12:14 AM

Thanks for all the comments. Velska – good point, and for sure, the privacy feature does have acceptably valid uses, it’s just easily abused.

Bob, that website made me sick to my stomach. I’m glad I saw it, talk about a wake-up call, but still, ouch. And it’s likely far more pervasive today then when that was written.

To Pondering Pastor’s point, I am a little late in the game. Having spent my career online for the last 13 years, I should have been “earlier out” with info like this. But better late than never. I’ll have more posts soon regarding internet safety for families. If you have other interesting URL’s or sources of info and help for families, please comment.

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14 Velska September 10, 2008 at 7:39 AM

BTW, there are still tools to follow every single package that is transmitted between your computer and a remote host. It just requires a little tinkering. And a separate firewall software can block specific addresses. So you can definitely know/control what is being viewed on *your* computer.

But like I said, make sure kids KNOW about the real dangers *before* they start hanging out on the Web, because they won’t always be on your computer. They have access in schools, libraries, friends’ homes etc. You can talk about the temptation and strengthen them before it happens. It may be “embarrassing” to talk about it, but I think it should be done.

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15 Connor September 11, 2008 at 12:20 AM

Mr. Loblaw, that is a great point. Having your computer in a public place is a great at to minimize the temptation. I think it is great not only at home but at work when possible (may not be possible in your law practice).

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