Judge Upholds Privacy Lawsuit Against Google

A lawsuit accusing Google of collecting data from users who are browsing the internet in “incognito mode” will go ahead.

The suit, brought against the tech giant in June 2020, alleges that even when consumers turn off data collection in Chrome, their personal data is gathered by other Google tools.

According to the complaint, “Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy. 

“Indeed, even when Google users launch a web browser with ‘private browsing mode’ activated (as Google recommends to users wishing to browse the web privately), Google nevertheless tracks the users’ browsing data and other identifying information.”

Tools allegedly used to gather that data include Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins, mobile apps, the “Google Sign-In button” for websites, and other applications.

“To prevent information from being shared with Google, Google recommends that its consumers need only launch a browser such as Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox in ‘private browsing mode,’” states the complaint. 

“When users undertake either—or both—of the aforementioned steps, Google continues to track, collect, and identify their browsing data in real time, in contravention of federal and state laws on wiretapping and in violation of consumers’ rights to privacy.”

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. requested for the case to be dismissed, arguing that plaintiffs had consented to the company’s privacy policy, in which are laid out its data collection practices. However, on Friday, March 12, US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, ruled against throwing the case out. 

Koh, who presided over the Apple-Samsung patent litigations, stated: “The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode.”

The case, Brown v. Google LLC, 20-3664, was filed in US district court in the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs will be seeking at least $5,000 in damages per user for the alleged violation of the Golden State’s privacy laws. 

“We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously against then,” said Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. 

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