Google Hit With Lawsuit For Tracking Internet Use

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Class action lawsuit seeks $5 billion from Google, for allegedly tracking people’s internet usage via browser’s ‘private mode’

Alphabet’s Google division has been accused of a major privacy violation, after it was hit with a class action lawsuit.

The $5 billion lawsuit alleges Google illegally invaded the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode, Reuters reported.

In February this year, Google was also sued by the US state of New Mexico, which accused the search engine giant of using its educational products to illegally gather data on children and families. Google said the US state’s claims were “factually wrong”.

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Google lawsuit

In 2019 Google paid $170 million (£130m) to the Federal Trade Commission to settle allegations it illegally collected children’s personal data on YouTube.

Now this fresh lawsuit is seeking at least $5 billion, and alleges that Google surreptitiously collected information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit was filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, and in the complaint, it alleges that Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.

The complaint reportedly said this helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favourite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online.

Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorised data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint reportedly said.

But Google has said it would defend itself vigorously against the claims.

Private browsing?

“As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman told Reuters.

Security researchers have raised concerns previously about the so called private browsing functions of web browsers.

They have warned that browser firms might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.

Privacy remains an ongoing concern, even during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In April the Federal Appeals Court approved a proposed class action by Facebook users over alleged tracking of their internet activity, even after logging out

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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