Google faces lawsuit over incognito mode user tracking

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Google is set to be embroiled in another lawsuit with regard to unauthorised user tracking as California federal judge, Lucy Koh, said the big tech firm must face legal action with regard to illegal data collection practices unearthed in Chrome’s incognito mode.

The company had appealed to the judge to have the case thrown out last week Friday, but she has chosen to do the opposite, as Google could be forced to pay as much as $5 billion in damages, representing $5 000 (~R74 750) per user in incognito mode.

“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode,” Koh said in her judgement.

This now forthcoming lawsuit results from a class action filed against Google back in June of last year, where three users filed it over the fact that incognito mode may, and in many cases has, tracked user data in what was thought to be a private and anonymous Chrome browser setting.

More specifically that websites that you visit while in incognito mode may still collect data on you, as part of the agreement that Google has in place with sites and platforms that make use of its services.

The class action lawsuit describes Google as having a ,”pervasive data tracking business”.

Naturally Google is claiming no wrong doing in this incident, citing the wording that is visible each time you open up an incognito tab.

“We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously 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,” stated a Google spokesperson following the latest ruling.

At the time of writing, it is unknown when the next court date will be set for this lawsuit, but it’s clear that the big tech firm faces a potentially massive penalty if it loses.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.