Incognito mode is not so private

Google has failed to have a proposed class-action lawsuit quashed that alleges the company violated user privacy by collecting data in Incognito browser modes. The company may now have to fight against user privacy violation claims in court.

The lawsuit, originally filed in June 2020, claims that Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history, among other activities, even when Chrome’s Incognito or other privacy-based browser sessions are in use.

Filed in the District Court of Northern California, the class-action complaint alleges that when an individual visits a web page served by Google services — such as plug-ins, Google Analytics, and Google Ad Manager — data is collected, no matter the browser mode.

The lawsuit says that Google is “intercepting, tracking, and collecting communications” and harvesting the data of users without obtaining consent, as noted by sister site CNET.

In total, the class-action lawsuit is seeking $5 billion from Google and parent company Alphabet.

While Google sought to have the lawsuit shut down, presiding US District Judge Lucy Koh dismissed the request on Friday, saying that the tech giant “did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode” in her ruling, as reported by Bloomberg.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company “strongly dispute[s] these claims” and will “defend ourselves vigorously against them.”

“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 spokesperson added, with such warnings displayed, as below, when a new incognito session in Chrome is launched.

In October, Google became the target of an antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The US agency claims that Google holds an “illegal” monopoly over online search services and advertising, and further accused the firm of “exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”

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