Google settles $5 billion privacy lawsuit over tracking users in ‘Incognito Mode’

Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in June 2020 alleging that the company misled users who thought they had an "incognito" or "private" mode on their web browser by tracking their surfing activity. Their Internet usage remains private while in use.

by Vikash Kumawat
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Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in June 2020 that alleged that the company misled users by tracking their surfing activity who thought that their internet use remained private when using the “incognito” or “private” mode on web browsers.

The class-action lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion in damages. Settlement terms were not disclosed.

The plaintiffs had alleged that Google violated federal wiretap laws and tracked users’ activity by using Google Analytics to collect information in private mode.

He said this allowed the company to gather an “unaccountable wealth of information” about users who assumed they had taken adequate steps to protect their privacy online.

Google subsequently attempted to get the lawsuit dismissed, pointing out the message it displayed when users turned on Chrome’s incognito mode, which informs users that their activity might still be visible to websites you visit, employer or school, or their internet service provider.

What is worth noting here at this point is that enabling incognito or private mode in a web browser only gives users the option to search the internet without saving their activity locally in the browser.

That said, websites using advertising technologies and analytics APIs can still continue to track users within that incognito session and can further correlate that activity by, for example, matching users’ IP address.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled, “Google’s motion relies on the idea that Plaintiffs consented to Google collecting their data while browsing in private mode.”

“Since Google never explicitly told users that it did this, the court cannot find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the collection of data at issue.”

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