Google has been sued in a proposed class action accusing the company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in private mode. The complaint has been filed in the federal court in San Jose, California by the law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner and it represents Google users Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen, and William Byatt.
The Alphabet Inc unit has been accused of secretly collecting information about where people browse what they view despite using Incognito mode of Google. The lawsuit seeks at least USD 5 billion from the company against the breach or three times actual damages, whichever is greater, for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.
As per the lawsuit, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and other applications and website plug-ins, including apps on their smartphone, even if the users do not click on Google-supported ads. The lawsuit also alleges that Google projects the Incognito mode of Chrome as a medium to surf without having any web activity or search history recorded.
The lawsuit also proposes that class under threat likely includes millions of Google users, who since June 1, 2016, have browsed the internet in private mode.
The complaint said, “Google cannot continue to engage in unauthorized data collection from virtually every user with a computer or phone.”
The complaint further said that with the help of the data collected Google learns about the users – hobbies, favorite foods, friends shopping habits, and even the most intimate things that they searched online. The company uses concealed tricks to track what people view online, their IP address, and where they browse, in whatever mode they choose to use.
Even as users feel that private browsing is safe, the security watchdogs have long raised a concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles. The analysts are of the few that Google could track the identities of people across different browsing modes by using their data from private and ordinary internet surfing.
However, a Google spokesman Jose Castaneda denied the allegations and defended the company saying that the giant search engine will defend itself against the lawsuit claims. He added, “Google is upfront about its data collection practices and what we do is not illegal. We clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity.”
He further added, “The browsing activity that the company collects through Incognito sessions is directly aimed at helping website owners better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing, and more.”