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Google Slapped With $5 Billion Suit, Accused of Tracking Users Even in Incognito Mode

”George Orwell could never have dreamed it,“ plaintiff writes

Google violated the privacy of “hundreds of millions” of users by tracking their every move with its Chrome browser, even when those users opted for the browser’s private “Incognito mode,” according to a $5 billion lawsuit filed Tuesday by David Boies’ Boies Schiller and Flexner law firm.

The tech giant “tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy,” according to the proposed class-action suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Northern California. “Indeed, even when Google users launch a web browser with ‘private browsing mode’ activated (as Google recommends to users wishing to browse the web privately), Google nevertheless tracks the users’ browsing data and other identifying information.”

By doing so, the lawsuit says Google and its parent company, Alphabet, have trampled over state and federal wiretapping laws, as well as its users’ right to privacy. The lawsuit names three plaintiffs: two Google users from Southern California and one from Florida who said Google has been tracking them since 2016, even while using Incognito mode. They’re seeking a class-action certification and a minimum of $5,000 per user impacted; overall, the lawsuit is seeking a minimum of $5 billion.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda, in a statement shared with TheWrap, said it “strongly disputes these claims” and will “vigorously” defend against them. “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,” Castaneda added.

The lawsuit said Google’s efforts allow it to illegally gain insight into its users’ personal information and tastes.

“Through its pervasive data tracking business, Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet — regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities ‘private,'” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, notwithstanding consumers’ best efforts, Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed it.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.