A $5 billion class action lawsuit filed yesterday in northern California accuses Google of tracking internet users even when they’re using private browsing mode.
According to the complaint, the company has been collecting and browsing histories through Google services, such as Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, as well as Google applications on mobile devices and the Google sign-in button for websites.
The data includes IP addresses, what the user is viewing and last viewed, and details about the hardware being used. And, it says, this data’s been collected regardless of whether or not the user is in incognito mode.
“Google takes the data regardless of whether the user actually clicks on a Google-supported advertisement – or even knows of its existence, reads the complaint.
“This means that billions of times a day, Google causes computers around the world to report the real-time internet communications of hundreds of millions of people to Google.”
The suit, filed by law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, covers the millions of Google users who have browsed the internet using private mode since 1 June 2016. It’s based on the Federal Wiretap Act, alleging that Google is intercepting communications by collecting the data. The company’s seeking $5,000 in compensation for each affected user.
Google’s defense is believed to be its warning, shown each time an incognito tab is opened, that browsing data may be collected by websites.
But, says the lawsuit, “Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Google and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and internet usage; and make Google ‘one stop shopping’ for any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”
The complaint echoes a similar lawsuit filed in Arizona last week alleging that Google collects Android users’ location records, such as map, weather, and search data, even when location services are apparently turned off.
However, a similar suit accusing Google of illegally tracking and storing geolocation data was thrown out by a Californian court in December.