Google Sued for $5 Billion for Tracking People in Incognito Mode

Carrie Mihalcik, CNet:

Google faces a proposed class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of invading people’s privacy and tracking internet use even when browsers are set to “private” mode. The suit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Google violates wiretapping and privacy laws by continuing to “intercept, track, and collect communications” even when people use Chrome’s incognito mode and other private web browser modes.

“Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy,” reads the complaint. The search giant surreptitiously collects data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plug-ins and other applications, including mobile apps, according to the complaint.

I’ve read the suit (PDF) — it’s a bizarre argument that accuses Google of lying in its documentation about how much private browsing mode protects users from its data collection methods. As Michael Tsai points out, Chrome’s “Incognito” mode offers a warning that websites can still track you; other browsers’ private browsing modes might not. And there is, I think, a reasonable argument that Google is being somewhat duplicitous by offering a browser mode that purportedly disguises a user’s identity while knowingly offering products and services that eliminate whatever protections Incognito Mode may offer. Must be nice to have a finger in every pie.

Still, though: five billion dollars in damages and an accusation of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, of all laws, seems rather silly.