The world’s most popular browser, Google Chrome, is the source is a lawsuit that Google will soon face. A judge recently ruled that Google will have to face a lawsuit from plaintiffs who accuse the Chrome browser of tracking users while they use incognito mode.
A class action lawsuit filed in the United States alleges that Google Chrome still allows websites to collect personal information on users The complaint, originally filed in June 2020, says:
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 class action lawsuit seeks damages to the tune of at least $5 billion as The Verge points out.
Bloomberg reports that a federal US judge denied Alphabet’s motion to throw out this case on Friday, ruling that “Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode.”
Update 8/8/23: This case continues to move closer to a full trial, as California Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers this week denied Google’s request for summary judgement, saying that Google’s privacy notice and splash screen for Incognito mode leaves room for question on whether or not “these writings created an enforceable promise that Google would not collect users’ data while they browsed privately.”
In response, Google said to The Verge:
We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them. Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. 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.
Also mentioned by the judge was that plaintiffs in the case have evidence that Google “stores users’ regular and private browsing data in the same logs; it uses those mixed logs to send users personalized ads; and, even if the individual data points gathered are anonymous by themselves, when aggregated, Google can use them to ‘uniquely identify a user with a high probability of success.’”
The next step would be either going to trial or Google opting to settle the case.
Our original coverage follows:
Of course, it’s important to note that Google Chrome incognito mode has never been designed to make a user “invisible” to the web. A Google spokesperson said that the company would “defend ourselves vigorously” in the lawsuit, adding “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.” After all, Chrome incognito is only meant to allow users to browse the internet without that activity being saved to the device natively.
Backing up Google’s response, Chrome does indeed give clear warning of this to users launching a new incognito window, as pictured below. It notifies users that Chrome won’t save their browsing information or data, but that a user’s activity may still be visible to websites, ISPs, and network managers such as a school or employer. This notice appears on Chrome for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux — every platform that supports the browser.
More on Google Chrome:
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