Secure incognito with biometric authentication in Chrome

Chrome incognito mode enables us to browse the web privately, but could someone see your incognito tabs? Yes! Secure Chrome with biometric authentication on Android phones. Stay private!

Incognito mode in Chrome goes a long way to making web browsing private. You have no history, no cookies and no identity, and it helps to prevent people or advertisers from spying on your internet activities. It does not make you completely anonymous on the internet, but it does help.

If you browse websites in incognito mode in Chrome on your phone, you may switch back to normal browsing mode, or switch to another app. You might forget about those open incognito tabs. Someone else might access your phone and see them, which could be embarrassing for you.

Phones lock, of course, but when you put your phone down, it may not immediately lock. This could enable someone else to pick it up and use it. Also, your partner may know the PIN to unlock your phone.

Someone may say, they forgot their phone, their battery has died, they’ve run out of data, or it’s not working. Whatever the reason, they may ask to borrow your phone for a minute to call, message or look something up.

If they open Chrome, they can then access your incognito tabs and see what you have been privately browsing.

For various reasons, it would be useful if we could lock Chrome incognito tabs so that only you can access them. Everyone else is locked out, but only from incognito tabs, and normal browsing mode works the same.

Google is experimenting with a biometric lock for incognito tabs in Chrome on Android phones. You have to manually turn on the feature at the moment, but it seems such a useful one that it will probably become the default standard sooner or later.

Let’s see how it works. Lock your Chrome incognito tabs!

1: Go to Chrome flags

Go to Chrome flags in Chrome on an Android phone
Access Chrome flags

Open the Chrome browser on your phone. Tap in the address box and then enter chrome://flags for the URL. This is a special one that accesses advanced settings in Chrome that are hidden. Some of the flags settings are experimental and they may eventually disappear, but the best become standard features within the browser.

2: Search flags for incognito settings

Chrome flag to enable biometric authentication for incognito tabs
Incognito settings in Chrome flags

There are many flags settings and it can be tedious and confusing browsing the long list of them. Tap in the search box and enter ‘incognito’ to filter the flags. Find the setting: Enable device reauthentication for incognito. Tap the button below it and select Enabled.

Press the Relaunch button that appears at the bottom of the screen because this is required to apply flags settings when they have been changed.

That is normally sufficient, but with this particular flags setting, we need to go a step further. Go to the phone’s home screen and press the task switcher button or swipe up from the bottom. When the apps suspended in the background appear, swipe Chrome away. This quits the app completely.

3: Open the Chrome menu

Menu in Chrome browser on an Android phone
Open the menu in Chrome

Open the Chrome browser on your phone again and then press the three dots button in the top right corner to show the menu. Click Settings down near the bottom.

4: Chrome settings

Chrome settings on an Android phone
Chrome settings

When Chrome settings appears, look down the list of items and find the Privacy and security section. Something new has been added to settings and you will find it here. Press it to open it.

5: Lock incognito tabs

Chrome privacy and security settings on Android phone
Lock incognito tabs in Chrome Privacy and security

After enabling the experimental flags setting earlier, there is now an extra option in Privacy and security: Lock incognito tabs when you leave Chrome. Turn on the switch next to it. Exit Chrome settings and close the app – swipe it away in the task switcher to really close it.

We are done. Now Chrome incognito tabs are secured with biometric authentication. Is it working? Let’s test it and see.

6: Open an incognito tab

Open an incognito tab in Chrome browser on an Android phone
Open an incognito tab in Chrome

Open Chrome on your phone and then press the tab button at the top. Choose the option to open a new incognito browsing tab.

7: Visit a website incognito

Chrome incognito web browsing mode
Chrome incognito web browsing

Go to any website you want. It does not matter which site because we just want to check that the new flags setting is working. Go to Wikipedia for example.

Now quit Chrome or switch to another app. Pretend that you forgot to close your incognito tab containing your private browsing. What would happen if someone opened Chrome to see your private browsing habits?

8: Switch to incognito tabs

Chrome incognito browsing
Chrome incognito tabs are locked

Press the tabs button in Chrome and if you have incognito tabs open, there is an incognito button at the top. Press it to switch to an open incognito tab. Now they are hidden and locked. Press the button at the bottom, Unlock Incognito.

9: Face or fingerprint authentication

Unlock Chrome incognito tabs with biometrics
Unlock Chrome incognito tabs with biometrics

You must unlock incognito mode before tabs can be viewed. You could enter a PIN, but the biometric authentication options are better. Press the fingerprint reader or select Face and it unlocks straight away, if your Android phone supports Face unlocking.

It takes a bit fiddling to set up and you have to go to hidden flags, change a setting, restart, then close and restart Chrome, but once set up, it is easy to use. It is useful having the extra security on incognito tabs and now you don’t have to close them after using them because they are locked.

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