A new class action lawsuit that has been filed in the District Court of Northern California claims the largest tech giant’s ‘private browsing’ isn’t really private after-all.
According to the documents filed, the complaint alleges that, even while ‘private browsing’ is turned on, Google tracks users’ browsing data. When Private Mode (Incognito) is enabled, it still tracks and stores various identifying information via Google Analytics, Ad Manager and many more applications.
The complaint reads, in part:
“Google takes the data regardless of whether the user actually clicks on a Google-supported advertisement – or even knows of its existence. This means that billions of times a day, Google causes computers around the world to report the real-time internet communications of hundreds of millions of people to Google.
Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Google and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests and internet usage’ and make Google ‘one stop shopping’ for any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”
The complaint states that whenever a user visits a page opens an app that makes use of Google’s services, the data is still tracked. It is then collected and sent to the company’s servers in California without the user’s knowledge or consent.
The suit seeks to collect $5,000 in damages per user (or three times actual damages, whichever is greater). The class action would be for anyone who accessed a page containing Google’s services without their consent, using a non-Android device in private browsing mode.
Though there may be long battle ahead, the plaintiffs sure have a good leg to stand on. In September of 2019, Google was forced to settle a lawsuit with the US Federal Trade Commission for $170 million for collecting the personal information of children via YouTube.
So it’s not really a stretch to think that the courts could decide against Google in this case.