Google is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit over the illegal collection of data via its Chrome browser while users are on Incognito mode. In principle, Incognito mode should offer greater privacy, but it appears that it is not the case.
Google asked but failed to have the lawsuit dismissed. The case accuses Google of secretly collecting a large amount of user data when they browse the Internet and try to keep their activity private.
The plaintiffs are claiming $5 billion in damages for violation of California privacy laws.
According to the lawsuit, “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 go shopping, what are your favorite vacation destinations, what is your favorite color and even what more intimate and potentially embarrassing things you surf the internet, regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities ‘private’. ”
A Google spokesperson refuted these accusations in a statement sent by spokesperson José Castañeda: “We strongly disagree with these claims and will vigorously defend ourselves against them. ”
“Incognito mode in Chrome,” he explained, “gives you the option to browse the internet without your activity being saved on your browser or device. As we clearly say every time you open a new incognito tab, websites could collect information about your browsing activity during your session. ”
In court, Google argued that Chrome “makes it clear that ‘Incognito’ does not mean ‘invisible’, and that user activity during that session may be visible to the websites you visit, and any third-party ad or analytics services that the visited web sites use ”.
But Judge Koh did not uphold this allegation in her decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed: “The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google is engaged in alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode. ”.
This court decision comes at one of the key privacy moments in which there is not only increased scrutiny from legislative and judicial authorities around the world, but also within companies.
Apple, which has implemented a system in its Safari browser that blocks web page trackers, will activate with an update in the iOS 14 / iPadOS 14 operating systems the obligation that apps that want to track users must first ask for permission.
This decision of the Apple company has caused a bitter controversy with Facebook, because it can affect its business of segmented advertising.
Apple’s decision affects users of Google’s mobile operating system, Android, as their users will be able to perceive how the iPhone protects privacy to a greater extent.
Google’s response move was to announce earlier this year that it is gradually eliminating third-party tracking cookies and that it does not plan to replace them with something so invasive even if it affects the advertising business, which is the company’s main source of business. .
Apple’s Safari reports blocking trackers on an ongoing basis. In the reports, Google always appears as the main company that uses this system for the elaboration of user profiles for advertising purposes.