Google, and its parent company Alphabet, may have to pay $5 billion as compensation in a class-action lawsuit in the US following the complaint from three Google users about the tech giant tracking user data in incognito mode. The complaint, which was filed last June, noted that Google carries out a pervasive data tracking business. It further noted that Google collects browsing history and other web activity data even after enabling the incognito private browsing mode on Google Chrome.
The lawsuit alleged that Google uses different systems, including Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins, and other applications, including the mobile apps, to track users, according to Cnet. “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 notes,
“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode,” US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, wrote in her ruling as cited by reports.
Google has however disputed the claims noting that it informs users beforehand about the tracking activity that may take place in incognito mode and that being incognito does not mean being invisible. The tech giant in its court ruling also noted 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.
“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,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda noted in a statement to Bloomberg.
Earlier this month, Google said that it will phase out the third-party cookies and once that is done, it will not replace the cookies with any other tracking tech. The Chrome browser will prohibit the cookies from collecting that information. However, the change is only applicable to the web version of Chrome, Google will continue tracking users on the mobile version of the Chrome browser.