A U.S. judge has thwarted Google's attempt to dismiss a $5 billion lawsuit alleging the tech giant illegally tracked users' online activity, even after they had switched to the "Incognito" private browsing mode in Chrome.
"Taken as a whole, a triable issue exists as to whether these writings created an enforceable promise that Google would not collect users' data while they browsed privately," Rogers said in the ruling.
She also responded to Google's argument that the plaintiffs did not suffer economic damage, pointing to a pilot program that paid users $3 per day for their browsing histories.
"Plaintiffs have shown that there is a market for their browsing data," Rogers stated. "And Google’s alleged surreptitious collection of the data inhibited plaintiffs' ability to participate in that market."
The class action lawsuit was filed in 2020, alleging Google still harvests data from users in Incognito mode through things like Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, cookies and apps. The plaintiffs argue that the Mountain View, California, company therefore deceived users by making them believe they had control over their data while in private browsing mode.
The lawsuit covers users since June 1, 2016 and is seeking at least $5,000 in damages per user for violating federal wiretapping laws and California privacy laws.
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