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Google collects user data even in Chrome’s privacy-centric Incognito Mode, claims US lawsuit

Google collects user data even in Chrome’s privacy-centric Incognito Mode, claims US lawsuit
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
20 May, 2022
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Google collects user browsing activity data even in the ‘privacy’ mode of its web browser, Chrome, according to a lawsuit filed against the company by Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, USA. The new filing comes as an amendment to a previous lawsuit filed against Google by Paxton in January this year, which had alleged that Google engages in “deceptive” location tracking practices, thus violating user privacy.

A Reuters report on the matter stated that users, who would use Chrome’s Incognito Mode to browse the web for content they deemed sensitive or private, were being deceived by the company.

The allegations are similar to a class-action lawsuit against the company filed by users in San Jose, California in March 2021. In the latter, the users had claimed that even with Incognito Mode turned on, Google used its trove of other advertisement tools to collect user data, irrespective of the browser mode that they chose.

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At the time, Google had appealed to the district court to quash the case, but district judge Lucy Koh upheld the case – against Google’s appeal.

The latest lawsuit reiterated the same, stating that those who used the Chrome Incognito Mode for viewing personal, political, medical or even sexual content on the internet were not really staying private – and Google was collecting data on them, anyway.

Google, yesterday, issued a statement claiming that the lawsuit made “inaccurate claims and outdated assertions” about their services. A Google spokesperson’s statement on the matter further added, “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We strongly dispute these claims and will vigorously defend ourselves to set the record straight.”

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Paxton’s original lawsuit had claimed that Google’s pledge to not store user location data if they turned off their ‘Location History’ feature in account settings was untrue, and stated that Google would collect user geolocation data irrespective of which mode they chose.

Google’s third party cookie-driven user tracking to serve targeted advertisements has drawn plenty of lawsuits and controversies over time. The company has since claimed that it will be phasing out third party cookies by the end of next year, and replace it with a different targeted advertisement model that it claimed would not be as invasive as before.

Competing browsers such as Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Brave already offer complete blocking of third party cookies, but warn that various websites may not work properly if a user blocks access to all cookies on their browser.

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