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Google Faces US$5B Lawsuit Over Tracking Incognito Users’ Data

Despite its attempts to shut it down, the tech giant is officially deep in a lawsuit alleging that it still collects users’ internet activity data even when they opt for the browser’s private mode.

The lawsuit alleges Google violates wiretapping and privacy laws by continuing to “intercept, track and collect communications” even when people use Chrome’s incognito mode and other private web browser modes.

Google applied for dismissal of the lawsuit – filed in June 2020 and now seeking class action status – and its request was denied by the federal judge.

“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode,” US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, wrote in her ruling.

This comes at a time when tech giants such as Google and Facebook are coming under fire regarding the amount of data they gather from their users – and how they collect it. In 2020, Google announced its commitment to phase out third-party cookies – the pesky things that track a person’s individual browsing across websites and then uses that activity to target advertising.

The lawsuit, which seeks at least US$5 billion (about AU$6.4 billion) from Google and its parent company, Alphabet, alleges the company collects data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins and other applications, including mobile apps, without the user’s knowledge.

Google has disputed the claims for some time, but now bites back insisting that it makes clear to users that “Incognito does not mean invisible”.

Google stated: “We strongly dispute these claims, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them. Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”

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