Google has reached a settlement to resolve a consumer privacy lawsuit that sought at least $5 billion in damages due to claims that the company tracked users’ data while they believed they were using the internet in private.
The “incognito” mode on Google’s Chrome browser, according to the plaintiffs, gave users the impression that the Silicon Valley tech company was not tracking them while they were browsing the internet. This was the subject of the lawsuit.
However, internal Google emails revealed in the lawsuit showed that the search engine and advertising giant was tracking users who were using incognito mode in order to measure web traffic and sell ads.
The judge verified in a court document that Google’s attorneys had reached an initial settlement to end the class action lawsuit, which was first brought in 2020 and stated that “millions of individuals” had probably been impacted.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys were requesting at least $5,000 for each user who, according to their claims, the company’s Google Analytics or Ad Manager services had tracked, even when the user was not logged into their Google account or in private browsing mode.
This would have cost at least $5 billion, though it’s unlikely that the settlement will come close to that amount. Additionally, no money was provided for the parties’ initial settlement.
An AFP request for comment was not answered by Google or the consumers’ attorneys.
Only a few weeks had passed since Google’s request for a judge to decide the case had been denied. Next year was to see the start of a jury trial.
The lawsuit, which was submitted to a court in California, asserted that Google’s actions violated users’ privacy by “intentionally” tricking them into using the incognito mode.
According to the initial complaint, Google and its staff members were granted the “ability to discover personal information about people’s lives, hobbies, and online activities.”
“Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed it,” it stated.
By February 24, 2024, a formal settlement is anticipated for court approval.
Since the US does not have a comprehensive law governing the handling of personal data, class action lawsuits have emerged as the primary means of challenging large tech companies on data privacy issues.
Google settled a protracted legal dispute over providing third parties with access to user search data in August by paying $23 million.
In 2022, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, reached a settlement in a related case, agreeing to pay $725 million for the processing of user data.