Google to Settle $5 Billion Class Action Privacy Lawsuit




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Women Using Laptop

Google has agreed to settle a $5 billion class action lawsuit alleging Chrome’s incognito mode isn’t as private as one might think.

The parties filed a joint notice of a preliminary settlement on December 26 and agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. A trial was scheduled for February 5, 2024, but now the courts will give their final approval for dismissal by the end of February. No details of the agreement were disclosed.

Google was not immediately available for comment.

Incognito mode runs in a separate window from a user’s typical Chrome window. The Google Chrome Help page says it does not save the browsing history, cookies, site data, or information entered on forms while incognito mode is enabled. While it states user activity isn’t hidden from websites or internet providers, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said the privacy policy suggests limits on what information could be collected.

The lawsuit, filed in 2020 by residents in Florida and California, claims Google’s incognito mode violates wiretap laws and tracks user activity without user consent. It alleges Google misled users that incognito mode was private and details how websites that use Google Analytics or Ad Manager collect information such as web page content, device data, and IP addresses. 

In August, Judge Rogers denied Google’s bid for a summary judgment based on the company’s lack of transparency to users about data collection.

“Since June 1, 2016, Google represented to plaintiffs it would not collect their information while they browsed privately,” said the lawsuit. “It did so anyway, collecting, aggregating, and selling plaintiffs’ private browsing data without their consent.”

Google said the message displayed on Chrome when switching to incognito mode says activity “might still be visible to websites you visit.” Still, Judge Rogers said this wasn’t sufficient to obtain consent from users to collect their browsing data.

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