A US federal judge has found that Google must face a $5 billion (€4.2 billion) lawsuit alleging it failed to notify users it could still track their browsing using the company’s ostebsible private browsing feature.
The lawsuit, filed in June, claims that Google violates US wiretapping and privacy laws by continuing to intercept, track and collect communications, even when users of the company’s internet browser, Chrome, use the private browsing Incognito mode.
On Friday, US judge Lucy Koh declined a Google request to dismiss the lawsuit, concluding that “Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode”.
The company previously said in a court filing that it makes clear to users that “Incognito” does not mean “invisible”, and user’s activity during the session may still be visible to the websites they visit.
The class action lawsuit was raised by three users of the service.
They claim that even in Incognito mode, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, regardless of whether the user engages with Google adverts.
The suit argues that this allows Google to learn about even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online.
Calling for change, it says Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone”.
The search engine giant defended its practices, saying the collection of search activity, even made during private browsing sessions, helps site owners evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing and more.
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