Lawsuit Claims Google Private Browsing Isn’t Really Private

Google is in hot water with a complaint filed to the District Court of Northern California.

The complaint alleges that the tech giant tracks users’ browsing data and a variety of other identifying information via Google Ad Manager, Google Analytics, and a variety of other applications. It tracks data even when users are accessing the web via Private Mode (Incognito).

According to the complaint filed, when an internet user visits a page or opens an app that makes use of Google’s services (which covers some 70 percent of all online publishers), that data is tracked. In addition, it is collected and sent to the company’s servers in California. In almost all cases, it is done without the user’s knowledge or consent.

The complaint reads in part, as follows:

Google takes the data regardless of whether the user actually clicks on a Google-supported advertisement – or even knows of its existence. This means that billions of times a day, Google causes computers around the world to report the real-time internet communications of hundreds of millions of people to Google.

Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Google and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests and internet usage’ and make Google ‘one stop shopping’ for any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”

The class action suit seeks to collect $5,000 in damages per user (or three times actual damages, whichever is greater). The money would be for anyone who accessed a page containing any service that relies on Google’s services, and who did so using a non-Android device in private browsing mode.

It will no doubt be a long fight, but the plaintiffs may well win. In September of 2019, Google was forced to settle a case with the US Federal Trade Commission for $170 million for collecting the personal information of children via YouTube. So it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility that the courts could decide against Google in this case.

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