Google has settled a $5 billion privacy lawsuit, which alleged that the company spied on users through the incognito mode feature in its Chrome browser.
In a 2020 class-action lawsuit, Google faced accusations of misleading users about incognito mode’s privacy regarding online tracking. The plaintiffs argued that Google’s Chrome browser’s incognito mode led users to believe that the Silicon Valley tech company wasn’t tracking them while browsing the internet.
However, internal Google emails confirm that the company was, in fact, tracking users using incognito mode to measure web traffic and sell advertisements.
Google settles $5B privacy lawsuit alleging it spied on 'incognito' Chrome users https://t.co/gjYBwoAfjq
— Business Insider (@BusinessInsider) December 30, 2023
The lawsuit argued that, even when users thought they were in “private” browsing, Google’s advertising mechanisms and other strategies were still collecting information about their site visits and activities.
Moreover, the plaintiffs insisted that Google’s strategies yielded an abundance of information about users who believed they had taken proper steps to protect their privacy.
The settlement with Google was reached on Thursday, but it still requires approval from a federal judge.
On Thursday, United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, set a potential trial date for February 5th, 2024, in the proposed class-action lawsuit if a settlement was not reached.
This came after lawyers representing both Google and consumers disclosed that they had reached a resolution. Attorneys confirmed the signing of a binding term sheet during the mediation process. They will present the agreement for ultimate approval by a federal judge in Oakland, California, by no later than February 24, 2024.
The plaintiffs initially pursued damages of at least $5 billion.
With the absence of a comprehensive U.S. law governing personal data use, class-action lawsuits have become the primary method for challenging major tech companies on data privacy issues.
The judge stated that “millions of individuals” might have been affected by this.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs initially sought a minimum of $5,000 for each user tracked by Google Analytics or Ad Manager services, even when the user was not logged into their Google account or in private browsing mode. This totals at least $5 billion.
Additionally, the initial complaint alleged that Google and its employees were given the “power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests and internet usage.”
The complaint stated, “Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed of.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs mentioned that they expect to present the court with a finalized settlement agreement by February 24th, 2024.
Google continues to grapple with several ongoing legal disputes, including multiple antitrust cases.
In another case, Google settled with all 50 U.S. states for $700 million.