Google was sued recently in a class action accusing the company of violating federal wiretap laws as it is illegally and shamelessly stepping on the privacy of millions of users by severely tracking every step they make on the Internet, even if the browsers they use are in private mode.
The lawsuit cost is at least $5 billion, pointing at the Alphabet Inc due to its practices of secretly gathering information about everything people do online, including what they see and where they browse, in spite of users using what Google claims to be ‘Incognito’ mode.
As per the complaint filled in the federal court in San Jose, California, the company collects all this data via Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and other services and website plug-ins, such as smartphone applications, irrelevant of whether users actually click on the ads supported by Google or not.
This gives the company all the information about individuals, including about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the ‘most intimate and potentially embarrassing things’ they look up online, the suit says. According to the complaint, Google ‘cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone.’
Private Mode is Not so Private
As a response to the suit, Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said that the company will defend itself aggressively against the complaints.
Although users have been taught that the private browsing mode is safe, computer security researchers have long voiced their concern that Google and all the other companies might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities via various browsing modes, merging data from both private and usual Internet browsing.
The complaint said the tracked users included millions of people who, since June 1st, 2016, started to browse the Internet using the ‘private mode.’ This breaks the federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.
The case is Brown et al. v Google LLC et al., U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-03664.