$5B Lawsuit Claims Google Still Tracks Users in Incognito Mode

Google is facing yet another lawsuit that claims the search giant collects too much information on users. But what else is new? Well, this time the proposed class-action lawsuit claims Google has been collecting data on users even when it says it won’t. According to the plaintiffs, Google still monitors people via online tools when they have Incognito Mode enabled in Chrome. They demand at least $5 billion in damages. 

Chrome has become the most popular browser in the world despite Google’s propensity for accumulating data on our online habits. Incognito Mode provides a way to limit what data you leave behind as you poke around the web, but the lawsuit claims it is inadequate and misleading. Google has numerous tools like Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager that can still recognize you online even with Incognito Mode enabled. 

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Google is violating federal and state wiretapping laws by gathering data from Incognito sessions. However, Google points to the warnings that appear when you start an Incognito session. Incognito Mode doesn’t log any data on your local machine or in your Google account history. However, Incognito Mode doesn’t hide your activity from websites and online trackers. Incognito Mode’s loading screen explains all this, as seen below. 

There are a few unanswered questions about this lawsuit. For one, is Google actually gathering identifiable data about people using Incognito Mode? It’s unclear if attorneys, in this case, have evidence that Google is storing data from Incognito sessions, or if they’re just speculating. Google clearly states in its support documents that data from Incognito browsing is not stored in your Google account unless you log in — you can test this yourself. 

If Google is somehow associating Incognito browsing activity with your account, that would be a potentially huge invasion of privacy. This could allow Google to serve more targeted ads, but many users activate Incognito Mode specifically to avoid having certain activity reflected in the ads they see. You can also remove non-Incognito data from your account, but this supposed Incognito data would be logged in some location you cannot access. 

The lawyers in this case say the proposed class includes millions of people who have activated Incognito Mode since July 1, 2016. They are seeking damages of at least $5,000 per user — that would be $5 billion total if there are exactly a million users in the class. Even if the lawsuit is granted class-action status, it would be years before anyone sees any cash.

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