Google faces $5 billion lawsuit for tracking 'private mode' browsing
Google has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit seeking $5 billion. The case accuses the internet giant of illegally invading the privacy of millions of people by tracking and collecting their internet activity (browsing history and other web activity data), even when they are browsing in the seemingly 'private' Incognito mode. Here is all you need to know about it.
Filed in the District Court of Northern California, the lawsuit alleges that Google projects the Incognito mode of Chrome as a way to surf without having any web activity or search history recorded. However, in reality, the company uses covert tricks to track what people view online, their IP address, and where they browse, regardless of what mode they choose to use.
As claimed in the lawsuit, Google uses its website tools, plugins, and services, including Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and the sign-in button for websites, to collect browsing data and other identifying information from people. It notes the company "cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone".
The plaintiffs added that Google's covert practices allow it to learn a lot about people browsing in the private mode, starting from their favorite food and hobbies to their friends, shopping habits, and "most intimate and potentially embarrassing things" they search online.
As the issue surfaced, Google spokesman Jose Castaneda explicitly denied the allegations, saying that the company is upfront about its data collection practices for Incognito mode, and what it does is not 'illegal'. "We clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity," Castaneda told BBC.
The Google representative went on to add that the browsing activity the company collects through Incognito sessions is directly aimed at helping website owners "better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing, and more." He emphasized the company will defend itself against the lawsuit which seeks $5,000 in damages for each of 'millions' of people who used Chrome's Incognito since June 1, 2016.