If you think surfing the web in Google’s “Incognito Mode” keeps you disguised, then you are mistaken. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the feature still allows Google to track and collect data on consumers when they're browsing.
On Friday, he filed an amended petition that adds Incognito Mode to his previous geolocation-related lawsuit against the tech giant.
Google’s definition of Incognito Mode states that it can "help keep your browsing private from other people who use your device." It also tells users that a site or Google service may remember their activity if they sign in while using Incognito Mode. However, Paxton says the company implicitly tells consumers that it will not track their search history or location activity.
Paxton vs. Google... again
Paxton doesn't appear to be a big fan of Google. In this lawsuit – his fifth against Google – he tries to make the point that the company hoodwinked consumers by tracking their personal location without their consent. He said Google continued to track users after they had disabled the feature in many cases, which constitutes a violation of Texas' Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The Texas attorney-general isn't buying Google’s “you’re in control” pledge one bit. He further alleges that Google’s representations that users can avoid having their internet search and activity history recorded by using Incognito Mode are misleading.
“Google claims to give users control and to respect their choice but in reality, regardless of the settings users select, the Big Tech giant is still hard at work collecting and monetizing the location and other personal information that users seek to keep private,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I am not going to let Google succeed in deceiving Texans.”
Google’s been down this road before
This is not Google’s first incognito rodeo. In 2020, the company was sued for allegedly allowing websites visited on Chrome to collect personal information while Incognito Mode was active. The complaint argued 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.
ConsumerAffairs reached out to Google for comment, but the company did not immediately respond to our request.
A Google spokesperson responded to ConsumerAffairs' request for comment after publication of this story.
"The Attorney General’s case is, once again, based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We strongly dispute these claims and will vigorously defend ourselves to set the record straight," they said in response to the suit.