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Google Settles $5 Billion Incognito Lawsuit

Google Settles $5 Billion Incognito Lawsuit

Ivana Shteriova January 18, 2024
January 18, 2024
Google has agreed to settle the $5 billion class-action lawsuit that alleged the tech giant misled people to believe that it wouldn’t track their web activity if they used “incognito” mode in its Chrome browser.

The judge confirmed a preliminary agreement to settle, but no terms have been disclosed. The formal settlement is due for federal court approval by February 24, 2024.

The class-action lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California by California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen and Florida resident William Byatt accused the tech giant of violating wiretap laws. More precisely, Google tracked internet activity in incognito mode, including site visits, IP addresses, and collected device data.

Google is also facing charges that it used private browsing data in association with users’ existing user profiles. Namely, Google Analytics and Ad Manager services collected data from users browning in incognito mode while not logged into their Google accounts.

While users believed they had taken the necessary steps to protect their privacy, Google used its “surreptitious tracking” to sell ads, the lawsuit alleges. Plaintiffs’ lawyers asked Google to pay their clients $5 billion in damages for collecting an “unaccountable trove of information.”

In August, Google attempted to have the case dismissed, stating that users received a warning that their activity “might still be visible” to websites they visit when turning on incognito mode. However, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected its bid for summary judgment:

“Google’s motion hinges on the idea that plaintiffs consented to Google collecting their data while they were browsing in private mode. Because Google never explicitly told users that it does so, the Court cannot find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the at-issue data collection,” the Judge Rogers ruled.

This isn’t the first time for Google to get in trouble with the law for the way it collects user data. In September 2023, a multi-year investigation into Google’s user data collection practices determined that Google violated California consumer protection laws, resulting in a $93 million settlement.

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