Google says ‘Incognito Mode’ does not mean ‘invisible’ in Chrome Incognito Mode privacy lawsuit hearing

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‘Incognito Mode’ does not mean ‘invisible’ says Google as it asks San Jose judge to dismiss the lawsuit alleging Chrome Incognito Mode privacy breach

Google wants the San Jose Judge to trash a privacy lawsuit that alleged that the search giant was collecting data of users even though they used Google’s Chrome browser’s Incognito Mode. The potential class-action lawsuit was filed in June by California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen and Florida resident William Byatt against Google LLC and it’s parent Alphabet Inc. for collecting user’s information even though they were using the Chrome browser Incognito Mode.

Brown & Co. allege that they were tracked by Google, despite using the Chrome browser’s incognito mode to visit sites including CNN.com, Apartments.com, and NYTimes.com. They cited that the Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager results show the users Google’s collection of IP addresses, browser and device information, and web pages’ content even if the user is using Incognito Mode in Chrome Browser.

The lawsuit claimed that according to Google Privacy Policy and Disclosures misdirect users into thinking that using Incognito Mode makes their web session private. The plaintiffs allege that when Chrome users command the browser to open an incognito window, they are greeted with a message stating that Chrome won’t save browsing history, cookies and site data, and information entered in forms. But the message also tells users their activity may be “visible” to websites they visit. The lawsuit further alleges that this data can be used for “device fingerprinting.”

Device fingerprinting aka canvas fingerprinting, browser fingerprinting, and machine fingerprinting is a process used to identify a device (or browser) based on its specific and unique configuration. Unlike web cookies that are stored client-side (i.e. on a user’s device), device fingerprints need to be stored server-side — i.e. in a database. It is a very controversial tracking technique that doesn’t rely on cookies but can reveal users’ private information.

Google wants the Judge to kick out the Chrome incognito mode privacy lawsuit

Google’s lawyers want the federal judge to throw out a lawsuit. “This is not a case where Google received data surreptitiously, much less deceitfully,” Google argues in papers filed Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. Google’s lawyers said that the lawsuit “is predicated on a willful misreading of Google’s disclosures.”

The Google’s lawyers urged Judge Koh to dismiss the lawsuit for several reasons. Google says that it’s privacy policy and disclosures tell the users that Chrome’s incognito mode only prevents data from being stored on their devices and not as stated by the plaintiffs.

“Incognito mode prevents previously-set cookies on the browser from being shared with the websites visited, in order to make the device appear as a new user,” Google reply to the lawsuit states. “’Incognito” does not mean “invisible,’ however, and the fact that some unidentified users visited websites and reviewed certain pages is not hidden from the websites themselves, or from any third-party analytics or ads services they use.”

In simple words using your Chrome browser’s incognito mode doesn’t guarantee you privacy as per Google privacy policy and disclosures. Google is already facing another privacy lawsuit for collecting users’ information consent through its Android Lockbox.

Brown et al. v. Google LLC et al. – 5:20-cv-03664(PDF) – ClassAction lawsuit is being heard by Lucy Koh in San Jose Federal Court.

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"The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had." Eric Schmidt

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