Tech giant Google is facing a proposed class action suit in the US for tracking users in the "incognito mode", in an alleged invasion of privacy. The class action suit demands $5 billion from Google’s parent firm Alphabet for violating the Federal Wiretap law and the invasion of privacy Act.
The proposed class action is likely to include "millions" of Google users who have used the private mode on Google Chrome since June 1, 2016. "The complaint, which has been filed to the US District Court for the Northern District of California by a partner at the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm, states that it has taken action because of "Google's unlawful and intentional interception and collection" of confidential communications without users' consent," reports UK-based media Express.
Incognito mode within Google's Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device. But the websites visited can use tools such as Google Analytics to track usage.
The complaint noted that Google was tracking user activities in incognito mode via Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and Google Sign-In buttons. "Although Google makes it clear that websites will still be able to record your visit and activity–as well as employers, schools, and the broadband companies, the complaint claims that Google "accomplishes its surreptitious tracking," using methods such as Google Analytics, the Google Ad Manager and the Google Sign-In button for websites," the complaint stated.
Chrome’s incognito mode stops the browser from saving the user's browsing history locally, but does not block Google or third-party companies from tracking users online.
While many internet users assume their search history is not being tracked when they view in private mode, Google says this is not the case. However, the search engine has denied that this is illegal and said it was upfront about the data it collected in this mode.
The complaint says that Google "cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorised data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone". It also claims that Google’s interception of user data is “intentional” and “unlawful”.
However, Google spokesman Jose Castaneda denied the claims. "As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity," he told BBC.