$5 billion legal case against Google regarding tracking in ‘Incognito mode’ progresses closer to trial stage

$5 billion legal case against Google

A California judge rejected Google’s request for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by users who claimed that the company violated privacy laws by tracking their internet browsing activity. The users asserted that Google’s cookies, analytics, and app tools continued monitoring their online actions even after activating private browsing modes like Chrome’s Incognito mode or Safari’s private browsing. However, the concept of “private browsing mode” isn’t truly private.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers highlighted various statements in Chrome’s privacy notice, Privacy Policy, Incognito Splash Screen, and Search & Browse Privately Help page. These materials suggested limitations on data storage and user control, leading the judge to conclude that there’s a possibility that Google implied it wouldn’t collect users’ data during private browsing.

Google’s response to the ruling, conveyed by spokesperson José Castañeda, emphasized that Incognito mode allows browsing without saving data to the device, though websites might still collect some information during the session.

The judge countered some of Google’s arguments, stating that evidence shows Google stores both regular and private browsing data together, uses the mixed data for personalized ads, and can potentially identify users when aggregated. Additionally, the judge dismissed Google’s assertion that plaintiffs didn’t suffer economic harm, arguing that the surreptitious data collection hindered their ability to participate in the market for their browsing data. The judge also deemed monetary damages insufficient and emphasized the need for injunctive relief to address Google’s ongoing data collection.

The lawsuit, initiated in 2020 with a claim for damages exceeding $5 billion, has moved closer to either settlement or trial due to this significant ruling by the judge, as reported by Mike Swift for MLex. The judge’s decision aligns with earlier indications and holds significant implications for the future trajectory of the case.