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Google Settles Lawsuit Over Chrome’s Incognito Tracking Allegations

Google's promise of private browsing in Chrome's Incognito mode has come under fire, culminating in a settlement with users.

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has settled a class-action lawsuit regarding allegations that the tech giant continued to track user data even in Chrome browser's Incognito mode. The legal dispute originated in the Northern District of California in 2020, when a group of individuals led by Florida resident William Byatt, along with California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen, initiated legal action against Google. They claimed that Google violated wiretapping laws and deceived users about the privacy level provided by the Incognito function in its browser.

Details of the Accusations

The plaintiffs maintained that Google was tracking and collecting user data from its analytics and ad services while they were in Incognito mode, a feature widely believed to offer private browsing experience. They asserted that data such as webpage content, device identifiers, and IP addresses were being gathered, and subsequently linked to the users' primary accounts without explicit consent. The initial defense offered by Google, which hinged on user consent implied by the warning displayed when Incognito mode is activated, was not sufficient to dismiss the case. The court, led by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, ruled that Google had not clearly informed users that it would continue to collect data during private browsing sessions.

Implications of the Settlement

While the exact terms of the settlement remain undisclosed, documentation filed with the court indicates that an agreement has been made between Google and the plaintiffs. This agreement, expected to culminate in the dismissal of the litigation, is due to be presented to the court by the end of January. Following this, a final approval by the judge is anticipated by February's end. The legal conclusion represents a significant acknowledgment by Google regarding user privacy expectations when utilizing 's Incognito mode.

The outcome of this lawsuit may prompt revisions to the user interface and disclosure processes associated with Chrome's privacy features. As global scrutiny regarding digital privacy intensifies, this case highlights the complexities and responsibilities of tech companies in communicating the capabilities and limitations of privacy-centric features. Companies operating in the digital economy may find that transparency with users over data practices becomes not just a legal obligation but also a business imperative for maintaining consumer trust.

Recent $700 Million Lawsuit Settlement

Also this month,  has settled an antitrust lawsuit with the attorney generals from all 50 US states in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As part of the agreement, the tech giant will pay $700 million, with the majority—$630 million—allocated to a fund benefiting consumers in accordance with a Court-approved plan. The remaining $70 million will bolster a fund for state use.

In September, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) initiated a civil antitrust lawsuit against  in October 2020, accusing the tech giant of monopolizing search and search advertising.

This was followed by a separate complaint from the attorneys general of 35 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. These cases later merged into one. The trial is set to scrutinize Google's “exclusive dealing arrangements” with companies like  and Samsung and its practice of pre-installing its services on  devices.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.