Google Chrome's incognito mode tops a $ 5 billion class action lawsuit alleging users are being tracked during private browsing sessions.
The lawsuit alleges that Google is violating wiretapping and privacy laws to intercept, track, and collect communications when using Chrome's incognito mode.
Google has been trying to dismiss the lawsuit since it was filed last June. A federal judge ruled the lawsuit must continue.
The judge's decision stated that Google did not adequately inform users that their data could be captured in incognito mode.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California writes:
"The court comes to the conclusion that Google has not informed users that Google is involved in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browser mode."
Read on below
To be clear, the consumers who filed the case are having trouble with Google collecting data through other services while in incognito mode.
For example, if a user visits a website in incognito mode, their data can still be collected by Google Analytics.
The consumers who filed the lawsuit said they were under the impression that incognito mode provides all privacy protection from data trackers.
Google denies claims via a statement from company spokesman Jose Castaneda:
“We strongly deny these allegations and will vigorously defend ourselves against them. In Incognito mode in Chrome, you can surf the Internet without your activity being saved on your browser or device. As we clearly state every time you open a new incognito tab, websites may collect information about your browsing activity during your session. "
Read on below
How clear is Google making that user data can still be recorded in incognito mode? Let's take a look at it.
Review of claims against Google
Consumers have filed a class action lawsuit against Google for collecting data while using incognito mode in the Chrome browser.
The judge who tried the case ordered the lawsuit to continue on the grounds that Google did not inform users that their data could still be collected while they were browsing incognito mode.
Google denies the claims and says so does Every time they open an incognito window, let users know that data may be collected from websites.
Here's what users see when they turn on incognito mode in the Chrome browser:
The message begins with the instruction, "Now you can browse privately …" and then makes it clear that a user's browsing activity is private to other people using the same device.
At the bottom of the message is explicitly:
"Your activity might still be visible on websites you visit. "
The message also informs users that their activity may be visible to others when using Incognito mode at school or at work.
A user's Internet service provider may also be able to view their activity.
What does incognito mode actually do?
Google Chrome's incognito mode is widely misunderstood.
Some believe that incognito mode frees a user from personalized search results. This was the focus of a study conducted by DuckDuckGo in 2018.
There are others, like the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, who believe that Incognito Mode provides complete privacy.
What is it actually doing?
Incognito mode prevents data from being saved locally. It hides a user's browsing activity from other people who may be using the same device.
Read on below
For example, if you share a computer with roommates, you can use incognito mode to prevent them from seeing what websites you are visiting.
That is the extent to which Incognito mode was designed.
This will be an interesting case as the plaintiffs will have to convince a jury that their claims are valid.
If nothing else, this case can create greater awareness of Incognito Mode that does and doesn't.