Google agrees to settle Chrome incognito mode class action lawsuit

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Google has indicated that it is ready to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020 over its Chrome browser’s Incognito mode. Arising in the Northern District of California, the lawsuit accused Google of continuing to “track, collect, and identify [users’] browsing data in real time” even when they had opened a new Incognito window.

The lawsuit, filed by Florida resident William Byatt and California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen, accused Google of violating wiretap laws. It also alleged that sites using Google Analytics or Ad Manager collected information from browsers in Incognito mode, including web page content, device data, and IP address. The plaintiffs also accused Google of taking Chrome users’ private browsing activity and then associating it with their already-existing user profiles.

Google initially attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed by pointing to the message displayed when users turned on Chrome’s incognito mode. That warning tells users that their activity “might still be visible to websites you visit.”

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected Google’s bid for summary judgement in August, pointing out that Google never revealed to its users that data collection continued even while surfing in Incognito mode.

“Google’s motion hinges on the idea that plaintiffs consented to Google collecting their data while they were browsing in private mode,” Rogers ruled. “Because Google never explicitly told users that it does so, the Court cannot find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the at-issue data collection.”

According to the notice filed on Tuesday, Google and the plaintiffs have agreed to terms that will result in the litigation being dismissed. The agreement will be presented to the court by the end of January, with the court giving final approval by the end of February.

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