Google settles $5B privacy lawsuit alleging it spied

…on ‘incognito’ Chrome users

This screen appears when you launch an “incognito” browser on Google Chrome.

Screenshot/Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert

  • Google has agreed to settle a 2020 class action lawsuit seeking $5B for Chrome browser users.
  • The lawsuit claimed Google tracked users’ activity in “incognito” privacy mode.
  • The terms of the settlement, which still has to be approved by a federal judge, were undisclosed.

On Thursday, Google agreed to settle a $5 billion class-action privacy lawsuit alleging that it spied on people who used the “incognito” mode in its Chrome browser to track their internet use.

The lawsuit filed in 2020 claimed Google misled users into believing that it wouldn’t track their internet activities while using incognito mode. The suit argued that Google’s advertising technologies and third-party websites that used Google Analytics or Google Ad Manager continued to catalog details of users’ site visits and activities despite their use of supposedly “private” browsing, sending that information back to Google servers.

Plaintiffs also charged that Google’s activities yielded an “unaccountable trove of information” about users who thought they’d taken steps to protect their privacy by using the “incognito” browser.

A federal judge must still approve the settlement. Terms weren’t disclosed, but the suit originally sought $5 billion on behalf of users; lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expect to present the court with a final settlement agreement by February 24.

Representatives for Google and lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider on the settlement.

In the years since the suit was initially filed, Google announced a shift away from precision-targeting ads, with the company stating it would no longer track specific users as they browse the web. The company also publicized plans to eliminate third-party cookies, which many websites use to store user data, on its Chrome browser by 2022.

Despite its initial promise, the Verge reported that Google still has not completely done away with third-party cookies. However, the company says it will disable the technology by the second half of 2024.

1 point