Google logoSource: Android Central

What you need to know

  • Google has been slapped with a $5 billion lawsuit in the U.S. for "illegally" tracking users in Incognito mode.
  • Google apparently uses tools such as Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins, and smartphone apps to gather data, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.
  • The complaint claims "millions" of users who browsed the internet in Incognito mode since June 1, 2016 may have been affected.

Google has been hit with a $5 billion lawsuit over "illegally" tracking millions of users, despite them using Incognito mode. The class action lawsuit seeks $5,000 in damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.

The complaint, which was filed in the federal court in San Jose, California on Tuesday, says Google collects data from users regardless of whether they clock on Google-supported ads, with the help of tools such as Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins, and mobile apps. This allows Google to learn nearly everything about its users, including the "most intimate and potentially embarrassing things" that they search for on the web.

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Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said in a statement sent to Reuters:

Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity.

Castaneda added that the Mountain View-based company plans to "defend itself vigorously" against the claims. While Google introduced Incognito detection blocking with Chrome 74 in April last year, its Chrome support page clearly mentions that Incognito mode does not "prevent your activity or location from being visible to the websites you visit."

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