Google faces lawsuit over tracking complaints in Chrome ‘Incognito’ mode

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A complaint accuses the company of failing to keep activities private while in the private browsing mode

Google is facing a lawsuit over complaints that its Chrome browser still tracks users when they’re using incognito mode. 

Plaintiffs have complained that Google allows websites visited on Chrome to collect personal information while incognito mode is active. The complaint, originally filed in June 2020, argues that Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone.” 

“Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet — regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities ‘private,’” the complaint stated. 

Judge rules against Google

On Friday, a federal judge denied Alphabet’s motion to have the case tossed out, ruling that “Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode.” The class action lawsuit is seeking damages of at least $5 billion. 

In a court filing, Google argued that it makes users aware “that ‘Incognito’ does not mean ‘invisible,’ and that the user’s activity during that session may be visible to websites they visit, and any third-party analytics or ads services the visited websites use.” A company spokesperson said Google intends to defend itself “vigorously” in the lawsuit. 

“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,” the company said. 

Upon activating Incognito mode, Chrome does notify users that the browser won’t save their browsing information or data. However, it states that a user’s activity may still be visible to websites, ISPs, and network managers. 

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