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Google must face lawsuit over-collecting data on ‘Incognito’ browsing

Alphabet Inc.’s Google failed to throw out a lawsuit alleging that the search engine secretly scoops up troves of internet data even if users browse the internet in “Incognito” mode to keep their search activity private.

The case was filed as a class action by consumers who alleged that even when they turn off data collection in Google Chrome, other Google tools used by websites end up collecting their personal information. A federal judge on Friday denied Google’s initial request to kill the case.

“The court concludes that Google did not notify users that Google engages in the alleged data collection while the user is in private browsing mode,” U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, wrote in her ruling, according to Bloomberg.

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The ruling comes amid Google and Apple Inc.’s data gathering practices are facing intense scrutiny by lawmakers. Google has set a target that it will eliminate third-party cookies that help advertisers keep tabs on consumers’ web activity next year. Also, it won’t employ alternative methods to track individuals.

In June, three Google users filed a complaint claiming the company carries on a “pervasive data tracking business.” Additionally, in the complaint, it was mentioned that even after users employ safeguards to protect their data, such as using “Incognito” private browsing mode, Google collects browsing history and other web activity data.

“Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet — regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities ‘private,’” according to the complaint.

Google made an argument that the plaintiffs consented to its privacy policy, which the American tech company said explicitly discloses its data collection practices.

“Google also makes clear that ‘Incognito’ does not mean ‘invisible,’ and that the user’s activity during that session may be visible to websites they visit, and any third-party analytics or ads services the visited websites use,” Google said in a court filing.

Google had no immediate comment on the ruling.

The case is Brown v. Google LLC, 20-3664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).


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