In a $5 billion lawsuit, Google admits to tracking its users in ‘incognito’ mode

Millions of Google users were secretly tracked, despite believing they were browsing incognito, according to a lawsuit settled by the search engine giant.

It was filed in 2020 in the United States Department of Justice, Northern District of California, and sought damages of up to three times damages for each of the “millions” of Google users.

By using various applications and plug-ins, such as Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, Alphabet Inc. has allegedly illegally collected personal information about online activity and browsing habits.

Attorneys for Google and for consumers reached a preliminary settlement on Thursday, and U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers postponed the trial for Feb. 5, 2024.

Lawyers stated they reached a settlement through mediation, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed. A formal agreement will be presented to the court by February 24, 2024, for approval.

Consumers’ lawyers argue that Google used its analytics, cookies, and apps to track people’s online activities even when they were using Chrome in “Incognito” mode. They claim that this allowed Google to gather a significant amount of information about users, including details about their friends, favourite foods, shopping preferences, hobbies, and potentially embarrassing online searches. Google tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but the judge, Rogers, rejected their request in August. The judge mentioned that it’s unclear whether Google had promised not to collect data from users in private mode, referring to the company’s privacy policy and statements that implied certain limits on data collection. In the end, the lawsuit accused Google of breaking federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.


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