Friday, June 14, 2024

$5 Billion Google Chrome Cookies Lawsuit for Alleged ‘Incognito Mode’ Tracking

Californian federal judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers has rejected Google’s request for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by users who claim the company violated the privacy rights of millions of individuals. The google Chrome cookies lawsuit alleges that its cookies, analytics, and app tools continued to track users’ internet browsing activities even in Incognito Mode.

However, as previously highlighted in our 2018 coverage, the reality appears to be that “private browsing mode” may not be as private as users hope.

Gonzalez-Rogers referred to various statements found in their help page regarding the limitations of information storage and users’ control over shared data in incognito mode.

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  • Chrome Privacy Notice
  • Incognito Splash Screen
  • Privacy Policy
  • Search & Browse Privately

In her ruling, she emphasized that when considering these statements collectively, there is a genuine issue to be determined at trial regarding whether these writings created a binding commitment from Google not to collect users’ data during private browsing sessions.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda issued the following statement to The Verge:

“We refute these allegations and are fully committed to creating a robust defense against them. Incognito mode in Chrome provides users the option to browse the internet without their activity being recorded on their browser or device. However, it’s important to note that, as explicitly stated each time a new incognito tab is opened, websites may still gather information about users’ browsing activity during their session.”

Additionally, the judge highlighted a crucial aspect countering Google’s argument, which involves the plaintiffs presenting evidence that Google “stores users’ regular and private browsing data in the same logs.” This data is then utilized to deliver personalized ads to users. Despite the individual data points being anonymous on their own, when aggregated, Google can use them to “uniquely identify a user with a high probability of success.” Such evidence adds weight to the plaintiffs’ claims against the company.
She further addressed a Google argument claiming that the plaintiffs did not suffer economic injury. In response, she stated, “Plaintiffs have demonstrated that there is a market for their browsing data, and Google’s alleged surreptitious collection of the data hindered plaintiffs’ ability to participate in that market.” Moreover, due to the nature of Google’s data collection practices, the judge concluded that monetary damages alone would not suffice as a suitable remedy. Hence, she emphasized that injunctive relief is necessary to address Google’s continuous collection of users’ private browsing data.

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The lawsuit was filed in 2020, seeking “at least” $5 billion in damages. As reported by Mike Swift for MLex, the ruling did not come entirely as a surprise, considering the judge had already indicated her inclination towards it. Nevertheless, the ruling is significant as it marks a substantial step forward in the case, bringing it closer to either settlement or trial proceedings.

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Varsha Kamath
Varsha Kamath
I have been writing content for various businesses for the last decade or so. Apart from writing content, I enjoy reading and travelling.

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