Google has been sued for $5 million for tracking users’ online activity even in incognito mode, under the Federal Wiretap Act.
It has been a popular belief that browsing in incognito mode is off the record. But, that’s not the case.
Three people from California filed a class-action lawsuit against Google on the basis of Federal Wiretap Act. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
They claimed that Google allegedly tricked users into giving up their internet activity data. The act clearly states that interception of private conversations can be the basis of a lawsuit.
But, how does the Federal Wiretap Act apply to this case?
If a person’s internet activity is accessible to another person, essentially all the correspondence between the person and website is also accessible to them. The lawsuit states just that.
According to the lawsuit, Google should not be tracking internet activity of the users in ‘private mode‘. This means that the company intercepted correspondence between the user and the website by tracking their internet activity.
The lawsuit also holds the company accountable for deceiving users into thinking that they have control over what data they share with the company in incognito mode. Google also violated a California law that clearly states that the consent of all parties is necessary to read or learn contents of private communication.
The complaint stated, “Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy.”
Google denies all these claims. According to Google, the incognito mode in Chrome gives users the choice of accessing the web without their history being saved on the device. The company, moreover, says that it is clearly stated each time a user opens a new incognito tab.
If Google clearly states it, what is the point of this lawsuit?
The lawsuit claims that users had ‘reasonable expectations’ that the company isn’t tracking their activity. It says that the company tricks users into believing that they have control over what they share. When, in fact, Google continues to track their activity even in private browsing mode.
It’s not the first time!
Unfortunately, the tech giant has faced similar lawsuits before. Recently, Arizona sued Google for violating its consumers fraud laws. It accused the company of tracking smartphone users’ data even when they had opted out of location tracking.
Similarly, the company has been sued for $13 million for its StreetView project as well. The company called this breach of privacy ‘a mistake’ at first. Later, documents showed that engineers built built a software to intentionally intercept data.
Google has found itself in these lawsuits from time to time. More than anything, these lawsuits hurt the company image. It is to see how Google bounces back from this!