A proposed class action lawsuit in the U.S. has accused Google of violating federal wiretap laws by tracking the online activities of users when in Incognito mode.
According to Reuters, the class action argues that by surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse when they use Chrome’s private browsing mode, Google has been intentionally deceiving customers into believing that they have control over the information they share with the company.
According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.
This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.
Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.
Google has said it will defend itself “vigorously’ against the claims.
“Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device,” said Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity.”
The three plaintiffs argue that the lawsuit likely covers “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet using Incognito mode. The proposed class action therefore seeks $5,000 in damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws, amounting to at least $5 billion.