CALIFORNIA – Google Inc has agreed to settle a consumer privacy lawsuit seeking a minimum of $5 billion in damages over allegations of tracking user data while in the “incognito” mode on its Chrome browser.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2020, claimed that Google Inc’s practices deceived users who believed their online activities were private.
The heart of the matter was the “incognito” mode, which the plaintiffs argued provided users with a false sense of privacy.
Internal emails from Google presented in the lawsuit revealed that, contrary to users’ expectations, the company tracked those using incognito mode for purposes such as measuring web traffic and selling ads.
In a recent court filing, the judge confirmed that Google’s lawyers reached a preliminary agreement to settle the class-action lawsuit, which claimed that “millions of individuals” had likely been affected.
The settlement, yet to disclose a specific amount, is expected to be formalized for court approval by February 24, 2024.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs sought a minimum of $5,000 for each user tracked by Google Analytics or Ad Manager services, even when in private browsing mode and not logged into their Google account.
The original claim asserted that Google Inc’s practices infringed on users’ privacy by intentionally misleading them with the incognito option.
The settlement follows a recent denial of Google’s request to have the case decided by a judge, with a jury trial originally set to commence next year.
If approved, this settlement would represent a significant resolution to a privacy matter that has been ongoing since 2020.
Commenting on the settlement, Google Inc and lawyers for the consumers did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
Class-action lawsuits have become a key avenue for challenging big tech companies on data privacy matters in the United States, where comprehensive legislation on personal data handling is lacking.
In a similar vein, Google Inc paid $23 million in August to settle a case involving third-party access to user search data.
In 2022, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, settled a comparable case, agreeing to pay $725 million over the handling of user data.