Tech giant, google has been slapped with a $5 billion proposed class-action based on accusation of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by tracking their internet use even when they browsed in “incognito” mode.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Jose, California, alleges that Google learned the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” about users’ searches by gathering data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other apps and web plug-ins.
Google violated the privacy of “hundreds of millions” of users by tracking their every move with its Chrome browser, even when those users opted for the browser’s private “Incognito mode,” according to the lawsuit filed by David Boies’ Boies Schiller and Flexner law firm.
Google “tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy,” according to the proposed class-action suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Northern California. “Indeed, even when Google users launch a web browser with ‘private browsing mode’ activated (as Google recommends to users wishing to browse the web privately), Google nevertheless tracks the users’ browsing data and other identifying information.”
Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.
But Google said it will defend itself against the claims. A spokesperson for the search giant, Jose Castaneda, said in a statement shared with TheWrap, said Google “strongly disputes these claims” and will “vigorously” defend against them. “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,” Castaneda added.
The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016, browsed the internet in “incognito” mode.
It seeks at least $5,000 in damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.
In 2017, Google playfully teased that it knew what its users are doing in private browsing, swapping a smiley face for a wink face in the browsers of users who spent a long time in an Incognito window.