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Google resolves lawsuit over tracking people in incognito mode

In this magazine post, we will provide updates regarding Google settling the lawsuit over tracking people in incognito mode. Prior to beginning, ensure you subscribe to Cyber Puffin to remain informed about developments in the field of cybersecurity.

Google resolves lawsuit over tracking people in incognito mode

Google Incognito mode is a feature that allows you to browse the internet privately, without your browsing history being saved. When you use Incognito mode in your web browser, such as Google Chrome, it doesn’t store your browsing history, cookies, site data, or information entered in forms. This can be handy if you’re using a shared computer and don’t want your browsing activity to be visible to others who might use the same device later.

Understanding Google’s incognito mode lawsuit

This story serves as a cautionary tale for all major tech companies. Users pushed Google to update the language in its Chrome Incognito mode disclaimer to accurately depict the company’s secretive tracking practices. The The individuals bringing forth the $5 billion class-action lawsuit, argued that Google deliberately misled Chrome users by not fully disclosing the extent of its tracking activities in Incognito mode.

Understanding Google's incognito mode lawsuit

The legal battle, initiated in 2020 with the filing of the lawsuit, had been ongoing. The individuals suing claimed that Chrome’s disclaimer, acknowledging that browsing activity in Incognito mode would remain visible “to the websites you visit,” fell far short of providing a sufficient explanation of what truly occurred behind the scenes. The primary concern of the plaintiffs was that Google never disclosed itself as the entity accessing all that information. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Google continued to collect data from websites utilizing its analytics tools, such as Ad Manager or Google Analytics, even in private browsing mode, without the knowledge of website developers or the users themselves.

Considering that Google Analytics tools make up approximately 70% of the web analytics technologies market and are utilized by over half of all existing websites, one would anticipate this fact to be mentioned at the very least. On its side, Google argued that users had agreed to allow the company to collect their data solely based on the disclaimer. However, the judge disagreed and sided with the individuals bringing forth the lawsuit, stating, “Google never clearly informed users that it engages in this practice. Therefore, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the data collection in question.”

Therefore, in December 2023, after exploring all alternatives to avoid the lawsuit, Google consented to settle. Although the specifics of the terms were not revealed, the initial lawsuit sought $5 billion on behalf of users. The plaintiffs’ attorneys mentioned that they anticipate presenting the court with a finalized settlement agreement by February 2024. However, the initial impacts are already noticeable in Chrome’s developer build, specifically in its latest Canary version.

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