Incognito Browsing Myth Busted: Google Settles $5B For Tracking Users in Private Mode

Incognito Browsing Myth Busted: Google Settles $5B For Tracking Users in Private Mode.

Alphabet’s Google has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of secretly tracking the internet activity of millions of users who believed they were browsing privately in incognito mode.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, postponed the Feb. 5, 2024 trial after lawyers for both Google and the plaintiffs announced a preliminary settlement.

While the lawsuit sought at least $5 billion, the settlement terms remain undisclosed. The lawyers disclosed agreement on a binding term sheet reached through mediation, expecting to present a formal settlement for court approval by Feb. 24, 2024.

The lawsuit alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps could still track users’ activity even when they used “Incognito” mode in Chrome or similar “private” browsing modes in other browsers. This, the plaintiffs argued, transformed Google into an “unaccountable trove of information,” allowing the company to learn about users’ friends, hobbies, personal preferences, and potentially sensitive online searches.

In August, Judge Rogers rejected Google’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. She expressed uncertainty about whether Google had legally committed to not collecting user data during private browsing, citing ambiguities in the company’s privacy policy and statements suggesting limitations on data collection.

Filed in 2020, the lawsuit represented “millions” of Google users since June 1, 2016, and sought at least $5,000 in damages per user for alleged violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws, according to Reuters report.

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



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