Google Facing Class-Action Lawsuit for “Incognito” Tracking on Chrome

By Bill Toulas / June 3, 2020

Plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen, and William Byatt have submitted a class-action lawsuit against Google on the US District Court of San Jose, in California. The three Google Chrome users are accusing the internet giant of illegally invading their privacy by tracking their full online activity even when they used the supposedly more private “incognito” mode. We had repeatedly discussed this privacy hole before and warned you about the problems arising from false marketing and inaccurate promises made by Google in the past, which is also the basis of the lawsuit.

The complaint details how Google keeps on gathering data through the Ad Manager, Analytics, website plug-ins that feed data to them, smartphone apps, and tracking tools of other collaborating parties. As we’ve analyzed in the past, Google’s ad system is used by over two thousand companies, and it’s active in approximately 8.4 million websites, so wherever you may roam, Google is most likely tracking you. No matter if you’re using Chrome’s incognito mode or not, your browsing data can still be collected and analyzed. The only thing that changes is your psychology on it and the deceptive, false sense of privacy that you’re getting.

The plaintiffs feel that Google is playing games on this part, with version after version of the Chrome browser remaining unable to hide the user’s browsing activities. Thus, they have submitted the official complaint to stop this practice as well as to seek the approval of a hefty compensation. In total, they demand at least $5,000 per user for violations of California privacy laws and false advertising. Since this is a class-action lawsuit submitted on behalf of millions of Chrome users, the court will have to consider the amount of $5 billion, which is set as a minimum.

Google has responded to this by reminding the world that they have openly and repeatedly admitted that incognito tabs don’t offer absolute privacy to the users. Thus, they feel that the class-action lawsuit is based on false expectations and that they never engaged in deceptive marketing or misguiding claims. Even if Google is ordered to pay the massive damage compensation, the chances of seeing them empowering the incognito mode and making it more private are slim to none. What they’ll do will be to highlight that it’s not a privacy-protecting mode with even greater emphasis.

If you want to browse privately, don’t rely on your browser’s incognito mode. Use a VPN or the Tor network instead, and actually encrypt your network traffic so that it’s impossible for anyone to figure out who you are and what you’re doing online. Even then, you cannot be 100% anonymous, but at least you’ll be doing the best possible to protect your privacy.

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