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Google In $5 Billion Lawsuit Battle Over Chrome Incognito Mode Data Tracking

Google In $5 Billion Lawsuit Battle Over Chrome Incognito Mode Data Tracking

“We strongly dispute these claims.”

Imogen Donovan

Imogen Donovan

Uh oh. Google is about to be mired in one heck of a lawsuit, following the admission that Chrome's incognito mode is actually storing data on its users.

To those who don't use the Chrome browser, the incognito mode allows for "private" browsing on the Internet, though it warns that your internet service provider will still be able to see where you're surfing. On the other hand, Google claims that the company will not save the browsing history, cookies and site data, nor the information entered in forms from the user for itself. All you need to do is switch off data collection in Chrome and you'll be away. If I open the settings in the browser right now, I click "Cookies and other site data," and the switch is about halfway down the section. Easy.

However, it turns out that this is a porkie told by Google, and it allegedly has been sopping up the data left behind by users' activities in incognito mode. Last year, three users filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, and said that even though they've switched off data collection in Chrome, there are other tools from Google that are still accruing statistics on their Internet activities. Information like IP addresses and browsing histories are dredged by an app connected to common Google services including Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager.

Not only is this a violation of privacy, the claimants allege that this creates a huge reserve of personal data that could be hacked by nefarious individuals. "We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them," said Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda in a statement to Bloomberg. "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."

This explanation didn't fly for the U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, unfortunately. "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," she wrote in her ruling. The lawsuit is seeking an eye-watering $5 billion in damages, with $5,000 for each user. We'll keep you in the loop as this story progresses.

Featured Image Credit: Federico Orlandi via Pexels, Google

Topics: News