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Google Pays $50M in Legal Settlement Over Breaches on Incognito Mode

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By Christian Webster - - 5 Mins Read
Google logo, gavel
Featured Photo | Shutterstock

Google has recently settled a major lawsuit in the United States for allegedly violating user privacy. The lawsuit claimed that Google was tracking users' activities even when they were browsing in "private mode".


The lawsuit sought $5 billion in damages from Alphabet, Google's parent company, and brought to light a number of controversies surrounding the company's handling of user data.

Unraveling the Legal Battle: Details of the Class Action Lawsuit

The lawsuit, filed by the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner in 2020, spotlighted Google's clandestine tracking practices. It contended that Google continued monitoring users' activities, even when they set their Google Chrome browser to "Incognito" mode or other browsers to "private mode."


The lawsuit painted a grim picture, accusing Google of transforming into an "unaccountable trove of information" on user preferences, potentially housing sensitive and compromising data.


The heart of the issue lay in users' belief that browsing in private mode would shield their activities from any data collection.


Google incognito mode profile on a screen
Browsing in Google Chrome incognito mode | Shutterstock


Contrary to these assumptions, Google purportedly gathered information about their browsing habits, evoking concerns of privacy invasion among users.

Judicial Standpoints: Judge's Verdict and Google's Defense

US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers played a major role in this legal saga. Initially, she dismissed Google's attempt to have the case thrown out, emphasizing her inability to concur that users consented to Google's data collection practices while browsing in private mode.


This ruling was a huge setback for Google, reinforcing the allegations of unauthorized data collection.


However, Google maintained its stance, asserting that it had transparently communicated the data it collected, even in private viewing modes.


The tech giant defended its actions by elucidating that collecting search history, even during private browsing, assisted website owners in analyzing their content's performance, products, and marketing strategies.

Unveiling the Settlement: What Lies Ahead for Google

The terms of the settlement, while undisclosed, prompted a halt in the scheduled trial, signaling a preliminary resolution.


Attorneys involved in the case are expected to present a formal settlement to the court for approval by February 2024.


This settlement is anticipated to draw attention to Google's undisclosed compensation to affected users and possible alterations in its tracking mechanisms.

The Broader Implications and Ongoing Legal Battles for Google

This lawsuit is just one among several legal skirmishes Google currently faces. Prior to this settlement, the tech giant resolved another lawsuit by agreeing to pay $700 million, quelling allegations of stifling competition in its Play Store on Android devices.


Furthermore, a separate lawsuit against Google by Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, added to the mounting legal challenges, alleging anticompetitive practices in app distribution.

The Intricacies of Incognito Mode and the Reality of Tracking Activity

Incognito mode, a feature within Google Chrome, ostensibly promises users a browsing experience devoid of data retention on the browser or device.


However, the lawsuit shows that websites visited during this mode could employ tools like Google Analytics to track user behavior, thereby raising questions about the efficacy of private browsing features.


Google's journey through this legal quagmire illuminates the fine line between user privacy expectations and the intricate web of data collection mechanisms employed by tech giants.


As the settlement unravels and legal battles persist, the tech giant finds itself at a crossroads, navigating between user trust and business practices in the digital space.