In 2020, Google faced a legal challenge wherein it was alleged to have tracked the activities of Chrome users even when they were in Incognito mode. Following an unsuccessful attempt to have the case dismissed, the company has now opted to resolve the lawsuit, originally seeking $5 billion in damages. The specifics of the settlement remain undisclosed, with both parties having reached an agreement whose details are set to be presented to the court for approval in February, as reported by Reuters and The Washington Post.
The plaintiffs contended that Google utilized tools such as its Analytics product, applications, and browser plug-ins to monitor users. They argued that by tracking individuals in Incognito mode, the company misled users into thinking they had control over the information shared. Google had previously stated that, although Incognito mode doesn’t store user activity on their device, websites could still collect information during the session.
The lawsuit presented internal emails, purportedly revealing conversations among Google executives confirming the monitoring of Incognito browser usage for advertising and web traffic tracking purposes. The complaint accused Google of violating federal wiretapping and California privacy laws, seeking damages of up to $5,000 per affected user. The plaintiffs asserted that millions of users employing Incognito mode since 2016 were likely impacted, justifying the substantial damages sought. While Google is expected to settle for an amount less than $5 billion, specific details of the agreement are yet to be disclosed, and the company has not provided an official statement to Engadget at this time.