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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Google Settles Class-Action Lawsuit Over Chrome Tracking Allegations

Google has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit, accused of covertly tracking users in 'Incognito' mode, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal battles over privacy and data practices in the tech industry.

Google has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020, accusing the tech giant of secretly tracking the internet activity of millions of people using its Chrome browser’s ‘Incognito’ mode. The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, alleged that Google continued to collect browsing data in real-time, violating users’ expectations of privacy.

The complainants argued that Google’s analytics allowed the company to amass a wealth of information, including web page content, device data, and IP addresses, turning it into an “unaccountable trove of information.” The lawsuit covered millions of Google users since June 2016 and sought at least $5 billion in damages for violations of wiretap laws.

In August, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected Google’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, highlighting that the company never explicitly informed users that data collection persisted in ‘Incognito’ mode.

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This week, it was revealed that Google and the plaintiffs have reached a preliminary settlement, putting the scheduled trial on hold. While the settlement terms were not disclosed, lawyers have agreed to a binding term sheet through mediation. The formal settlement is expected to be presented for court approval by February 24, 2024.

The lawsuit claimed that Google’s tools, such as analytics and cookies, allowed the company to track users’ activities even when using ‘Incognito’ mode, leading to an invasion of privacy. The alleged unauthorized data collection provided Google with insights into users’ preferences, hobbies, shopping habits, and potentially embarrassing online searches.

Judge Rogers had rejected Google’s argument that users had consented to data collection, emphasizing that the company had not explicitly informed users about continued tracking during private browsing.

This settlement comes amid increased scrutiny of technology firms’ practices. Google faces several lawsuits challenging its search and digital advertising practices. The settlement amount and terms will be presented for court approval, marking a significant development in the ongoing legal battles surrounding privacy and data practices in the tech industry.