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Google’s ‘Incognito mode’ lawsuit exposes the outrageous costs of digital privacy violations

2024.01.08 05:40:51 Eileen Yoon

[Logo of Google. Photo Credit to Pixabay]

A search engine company, Google, had consented to resolve a U.S. lawsuit alleging that it violated consumer privacy rights by tracking them even when using the ‘Incognito mode,’ a privacy-preserving feature.


The ‘Incognito mode’ feature provides users with a more secure and private browsing experience.


With the ‘Incognito mode,’ users of Google's Chrome browser can search the internet in private mode without having their browsing activities recorded to the browser or device.


However, it has now been revealed that the websites can still track usage with methods such as ‘Google Analytics.’


The dispute arose when users accused Google of persistently monitoring their digital actions and collecting user data, including browsing history and search queries, even while using the ‘Incognito mode.’


Thus, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Google due to this revelation.


Even though Google has not acknowledged any wrongdoing, it opted to reach a settlement to preserve its reputation and avoid complicated legal disputes.


The settlement comes after a trial that a federal judge in California had initially scheduled for 2024; however, a recent court filing on Thursday indicated that the trial has been temporarily postponed until the terms of the contract are finalized.


The initial complaint had set forth requests for each plaintiff that may have included millions of people in the action, with amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000 - It is estimated that at least $5 billion was put forward in the lawsuit.


Federal officials have also accused other tech giant companies such as Amazon, Meta, and Alphabet (Google's parent company) of breaking several privacy rules and have launched legal measures against them.


The whole situation underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability when it comes to tech companies’ handling of user data.


The possible expenses might have been in the billions if Google had lost to this lawsuit.


Despite the specific contents and information of the settlement not being revealed, the lawyers claim they had reached a legally binding term sheet during mediation and anticipated submitting a formal settlement proposal for the court's approval by Feb 24, 2024.


In the aftermath of the settlement, Google has recently announced an increase in transparency about its user data collection practices in the wake of the lawsuit.


Even while using the private browsing modes, the company gave customers more information about the possible hazards associated with data collecting, demonstrating a proactive attempt to address and resolve privacy-related issues.


The settlement of this lawsuit sparks a larger discussion about the moral use of data and the obligation of internet businesses to prioritize user privacy in their goods and services as consumers grow more conscious of privacy issues.


Regulators, customers, and tech companies must carefully balance innovation and privacy protection as digital environments change.


The effects of this resolution on user trust and wider business practices are still to come, considering that the settlement specifics are still unknown and the trial date is still pending.


The lawyers representing the plaintiffs have yet to provide any comments; thus, speculation about what precedence this settlement may set in the ongoing legal struggle for digital privacy remains.

Eileen Yoon / Grade 11
Fayston Preparatory of Suji