Google has reached a preliminary settlement in a US lawsuit that accused the tech giant of infringing on user privacy by tracking their online activities, even when they were using the "Incognito" browsing mode. This development reflects the growing legal challenges faced by large technology firms over privacy concerns.
A Landmark Case on Online Privacy
The class-action lawsuit, which demanded at least $5 billion from Google and its parent company Alphabet, was filed by law firm Boies Schiller Flexner in 2020. The case centered around allegations that Google tracked users' online activities through its Chrome browser's Incognito mode and other browsers' private modes.
This practice was described as turning Google into an "unaccountable trove of information" on user preferences and activities, some of which could be potentially embarrassing. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who had earlier rejected Google's motion to dismiss the case, put a scheduled trial on hold following the announcement of the settlement.
Judge Rogers had found it implausible that users consented to allow Google to collect data on their browsing activities. The specific terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but a formal settlement is expected to be presented for court approval by February 2024.
Google's Response and the Broader Implications
Google has defended its data collection practices, stating that it has been transparent about the data it collects in private browsing modes. The company argues that this information helps site owners evaluate the performance of their content and marketing strategies.
Incognito mode in Google Chrome allows users to browse the internet without saving their activity to the browser or device. However, websites visited can still track usage through tools like Google Analytics. This settlement is part of a series of legal challenges Google faces, reflecting the heightened scrutiny of tech giants' practices.
Earlier this month, Google agreed to pay $700 million to settle a lawsuit by US states accusing it of anti-competitive practices related to its Play Store on Android devices. Additionally, Google recently lost a court battle to Epic Games, which sued the company for allegedly making its app store dominant over rivals.