Google is facing a $5 billion class action lawsuit over tracking users when in ‘private’ mode.
A suit, filed by law firm Boies Schiller Flexner in San Jose, California, has accused tech giant Google of tracking internet users when they are in private browsing mode. The lawsuit is seeking $5000 in compensation for each affected user who has used private mode to browse the Internet since 1 June 2016.
The suit is based on the Federal Wiretap Act and is alleging that Google is violating federal wiretapping and California privacy laws by tracking users when they are using the so-called Incognito Mode.
“Google cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.
Incognito mode does not prevent tracking
Various browsers have introduced incognito mode over the years as means of browsing more privately. What essentially happens when your browser is in incognito mode is your browsing history, cookies and site data are not saved on your computer. It’s basically means of hiding your browsing activities from people using the same device without having to manually delete browsing data.
However, there are common misconceptions that incognito mode makes browsing completely private from everyone. When in incognito mode, your activity is still visible to your internet service provider, and your employer/school if applicable. This ‘private’ mode also does not prevent sites you visit from tracking you using tools such as Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager.
Google has defended the legality of this practice and claims that users should be well aware that websites may be able to collect information related to browsing activity when in incognito mode, as it is clearly explained when a new incognito window is opened.
“As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” Google’s spokesman Jose Castaneda said.
The tech giant has said that tracking even in ‘private’ mode allows site owners to “better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing, and more”.