Jun 3, 2020 - Technology

Lawsuit alleges Google tracks users even in incognito mode

Illustration of a spotlight on the Google logo.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Google faces a new lawsuit seeking at least $5 billion over accusations the company profits off of using its ad tech to track people across the internet, even when they take steps to mask their browsing.

The big picture: Google, like other tech giants, has faced rising scrutiny in recent years over its collection and use of private data, and policymakers and advocates have looked to how it uses ad tech as a possible avenue for curbing its power.

Details: The suit alleges that Google collected the plaintiffs' IP addresses, what sites they visit, and what devices they use, even as they browsed the internet in Chrome's "incognito" mode.

  • The plaintiffs named in the suit are three Google account holders, but they're seeking to make it a class action, which could mean many more people joining.

Context: The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes in the wake of Arizona's attorney general suing the company for allegedly misleading users on its location-tracking practices.

What they're saying:

  • “We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said in a statement. "Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session."
  • "Google’s enormous financial success results from its unparalleled tracking and collection of consumer personal information and selling and brokering of that information to optimize advertisement services," the lawsuit contends.

Go deeper: What Google knows about you

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