Google Settles $5B Lawsuit For Allegedly Tracking Users In ‘Incognito Mode’

Google has reportedly reached a massive settlement in a privacy lawsuit that alleged the company had tracked users who were utilizing the “incognito” mode feature in the Google Chrome browser and similar supposedly “private” browser modes.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in 2020, accused Google of deceiving users into believing that the company would not track their online activities while they were browsing in “incognito” mode.

According to the plaintiffs, users of the “incognito” mode were under the impression that Google was not spying on them, but internal emails from the massive Silicon Valley tech company have revealed that that was not the case.

The emails, which were uncovered during the lawsuit, showed that Google was tracking users to measure web traffic — recording their site visits and activities in order to sell advertisements.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that Google’s strategies provided it with an “unaccountable trove of information” about users who believed that, by using “incognito” mode, they had taken measures to safeguard their privacy.

The initial complaint asserted that Google and its employees had been given a staggering amount of “power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and internet usage.”

“Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed of,” the complaint continued.

On Thursday, Google reached a settlement in the case — although it still needs to be authorized by a federal judge. The lawsuit initially pursued $5 billion on behalf of users, with plaintiffs’ lawyers arguing that each user who was tracked by Google Analytics or Ad Manager services deserved at least $5,000, but the final terms have not yet been revealed as of Monday evening.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of Oakland, California, has placed an expected trial date of February 5, 2024, in the class-action lawsuit, should a settlement not be reached — though her ruling came before lawyers representing Google and consumers announced their preliminary resolution.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have predicted that they will be presenting the court with a closing settlement consensus by February 24, 2024.