Google has been hit with a proposed class action accusing it of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their Internet use through browsers set in “private” or “incognito” mode. According to a report in The Daily Mail, the complaint accused Google of becoming an “unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed it.”
The complaint says that Google tracks users so pervasively that it knows intimate details about its users including their friends, hobbies, favorite restaurants, movies, shopping spots, vacation destinations and even their favorite color. Google also knows about the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things users browse online regardless of whether they follow Google’s advice to keep their activities “private,” according to the document. Google’s incognito mode is promoted as offering a higher level of privacy for users.
Blatant Beach of Privacy and Security
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., seeks at least $5 billion in compensation accusing Google of secretly collecting information about people’s online viewing and browsing in spite of using the Incognito mode. The complaint says Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy, intentionally deceive consumers, give Google and its employees the power to learn about individuals’ lives and make the company “one-stop shopping” for any government, private or criminal actor that wishes to undermine individuals’ privacy security or freedom.
The complaint also alleges that Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins including smartphone apps regardless of whether or not users click on Google-supported ads. This complaint comes just a week after Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, filed a suit alleging Google kept tabs on its users’ whereabouts even if they had turned off location tracking violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The California case could include millions of Google users who have browsed the Internet in “private mode” since June 1, 2016.
Cause for Serious Concern
If these allegations are true, it is cause for serious concern. We hope that this class action lawsuit brings out more facts about this case. Class action lawsuits are one of the few mechanisms by which ordinary citizens can hold the largest corporations in the world accountable for unethical or illegal behavior and wrongdoing. There is no question that this issue would affect tens of millions of users and our California class action lawyers will be watching it closely.