Google faces $5 BILLION lawsuit in U.S. for ‘tracking users in incognito mode’

Google faces $5 BILLION lawsuit for ‘illegally invading the privacy of millions of users’ by ‘tracking their internet use through incognito mode’

  • Google has been hit with a class action suit filed in San Jose, California 
  • The law suit alleges Google continued to collect data during ‘incognito’ mode
  • Google says they clearly state that some websites might still see a user’s activity 

Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in ‘private’ mode.

The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.

According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.

Google’s ‘incognito’ mode is promoted as offering a higher level of privacy for browsers. A new lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, accuses Google of still tracking people despite the mode being on

This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the ‘most intimate and potentially embarrassing things’ they search for online, the complaint said.

‘Google must be held accountable for the harm it has caused to its users in order to ensure it cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,’ the complaint said. 

Their case comes a week after Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, filed a suit alleging that Google kept tabs on the whereabouts of its users even if they had turned off location tracking.

Brnovich said the behavior would violate the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.  

A Google spokesman said Brnovich and the ‘contingency fee lawyers’ who brought the case have mischaracterized the company’s services, noting: ‘We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data.’

The damages sought in that lawsuit could run to hundreds of millions of dollars, with Arizona seeking all profits derived from the alleged deceptive practices, as well as a $10,000 fine per violation  

Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the Mountain View, California-based company will also defend itself vigorously against the news claims.

‘As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,’ he said.

Google has said it will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit, which seeks $5 billion

Google has said it will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit, which seeks $5 billion

While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.

The complaint said the proposed class likely includes ‘millions’ of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in ‘private’ mode.

It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.

Boies Schiller & Flexner represents the plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen and William Byatt.

The case is Brown et al v Google LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-03664.