On Monday, a judge denied Google’s request for a summary judgment in a $5 billion privacy lawsuit against the company. After reviewing the case, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers gave the prosecutors the green light to proceed to trial.
The Order Denying Google’s Motion For Summary Judgement said plaintiffs are suing over Google’s “surreptitious interception and collection of personal and sensitive user data while users are in ‘private browsing mode,’” according to a document provided by The Verge. The motion goes on to say Google doesn’t tell website developers it also tracks their incognito visitors.
Judge Rogers reviewed Google’s privacy policies and disagrees with Google’s stance that the company clearly informed users data could still be collected while using incognito mode.
Since 2020, Google’s Search & Browse Privately Help page says, “You’re in control of what information you share with Google when you search.”
The motion outlines how Google “takes users’ private browsing history and associates it with their preexisting user profiles… to offer better, more targeted advertisements to users.”
Based on the wording of Google’s terms and conditions, Judge Rogers found merit to the plaintiff’s claims incognito searches would remain private. Yet Google collected data without user consent.
Google was not immediately available for comment.
The order sets into motion the next phase of this lawsuit by taking the matter to court. Google will face charges of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act, the Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act, invasion of privacy, intrusion upon seclusion, breach of contract, and violating California’s Unfair Competition Law.
The class action lawsuit has been slowly heading to trial since it was filed in June 2020. Google stands accused of tracking the internet use of millions of users with incognito mode enabled. Google collected data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins, cookies, and smartphone apps unbeknownst to users who thought they were browsing privately.