Google parent Alphabet Inc sued for $5 billion for tracking private browsing activity of users
It is already known that tech companies keep tabs on users even if they use the Incognito Mode or Private Mode. Now a group of people have gotten together and filed a class-action suit against Google’s parent Alphabet Inc for tracking millions of users even when they were browsing using incognito mode or private browsing mode.
The group filed a class-action suit against Google on Tuesday seeking damages worth a whopping $5 billion. The lawsuit accuses the tech giant of invading the privacy of millions of users without their knowledge by tracking internet use even when using private browsing mode. The suit accuses Google of not only tracking the users’ private browsing data but also using it for commercial purposes like advertising, etc.
The complaint, filed to the District Court of Northern California, claims Google tracks users’ browsing data and other identifying information through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and various other application and website plug-ins, such as Google applications on mobile devices and the Google Sign-In button for websites regardless of what mode of browsing is chosen.
The lawsuit says that Google tracks users browsing habits whenever they visit a webpage or open an app that uses Google’s services. The lawsuit adds that Google has a virtual monopoly with these services and can track user’s personal information like IP address, pages viewed by the user, user’s hardware details. This information is then relayed to the Alphabet servers in California which is used for commercial purposes by Google.
Google takes the data regardless of whether the user actually clicks on a Google-supported advertisement — or even knows of its existence. This means that billions of times a day, Google causes computers around the world to report the real-time internet communications of hundreds of millions of people to Google. Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Google and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and internet usage; and make Google ‘one stop shopping’ for any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.
The suit reportedly says data is tracked by Google services even when users are in “incognito” mode, and seeks $5,000 in damages per user since June 1, 2016, for alleged violations of federal and state laws. The sum total of these damages will come to $5 billion. The class action seeks to include all those who own an Android smartphone/tablet/smart TV and viewed a website page containing Google Analytics or Ad Manager in private browsing mode on that device. It also includes users with Google account who use non-Android smartphones like iPhone.
The class action is seeking $5,000 in damages per user, or three times actual damages, whichever is greater for the alleged invasion of privacy and is expected to consist of “millions of individuals”.
Google’s/Alphabet’s comments on the $5 billion lawsuit
A Google spokesperson has said that the company would vigorously defend itself in the court. Google has already lost a similar case when it had to negotiate a settlement of $170 million with the US Federal Trade Commission and New York AG office. At that time Google had been accused of illegally collecting the personal information of children via YouTube.