Google got slapped with a $5 billion proposed class-action lawsuit this week, with plaintiffs accusing the search giant of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by tracking their internet use even when they browsed in “incognito” mode.
The complaint, filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., argues that Google learned the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” about users’ searches by gathering data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other apps and web plug-ins. Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorised data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.
Google has said it will defend itself against the claims, with a spokesperson saying the browser “clearly states” that websites “might be able to collect information about your browsing activity” when a new Incognito tab is opened. The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016, browsed the internet in “incognito” mode.
It seeks at least $5,000 in damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws. Google in 2017 playfully teased that it knew what its users are doing in private browsing, swapping a smiley face for a wink face in the browsers of users who spent a long time in an Incognito window. Parent Alphabet shares fell $2.84 to $1,436.38. The search giant’s stock is up 5.4 percent year-to-date.