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A judge in California says Google can be sued for Incognito mode tracking

Google is obviously going to fight this.

google incognito mode logo
Screenshot: Google Incognito mode

Data collection has been a hot-button topic for the past year now, and companies are looking to clarify what data it is keeping on users, as well as providing methods for staying “off the grid.”

Google Chrome’s Incognito mode is the most recent service to come under fire for potentially-deceptive practices. Now, a judge in California has approved a lawsuit that claims Google isn’t being open about tracking that still takes place while users browse in the mode.

The lawsuit, Brown v. Google, was brought forward by three people, Chasom Brown, William Byatt, and Maria Nguyen, who claim Google tracks browsing data “no matter what safeguards” are put in place by the user. Google is obviously fighting this, noting that it makes it clear that data is still being collected, both in the privacy policy and the homepage of Google’s Incognito mode.

According to the lawsuit, Google still has Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager tracking implemented in Incognito mode, and the Google app still tracks users while in the mode.

Gizmodo notes that District Judge Lucy Koh denied Google’s motion to dismiss the class-action lawsuit. Google’s argument is that people are “willfully misreading” its privacy statements and that users agree to tracking by using the service.

As a random person on the internet, I can see both sides here. For non-techie people, Incognito mode definitely gives the allusion of some level of privacy, but it can’t be ignored that the homepage of Incognito mode does note that websites can still track you. That said, it is vague enough to leave a lot of unanswered questions, especially about Google’s role in tracking.

Koh seems to agree, stating, “[N]either Google’s Privacy Policy nor any other disclosure to which Google points states that Google engages in the alleged data collection while users are in private browsing mode. To the contrary, Google’s disclosures present private browsing as a way users can manage their privacy and omits Google from the list of entities to which a user’s private browsing activity may be visible.”

Have any thoughts on this? Do you use Incognito mode? Did you know tracking still took place? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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