Google has reached a preliminary settlement agreement in a consumer privacy lawsuit seeking damages of at least $5 billion. The lawsuit alleged that Google tracked the data of users who believed they were browsing the internet privately through the incognito mode on its Chrome browser. The plaintiffs claimed that this mode gave users a false sense of privacy, as Google was actually tracking their online activities for measuring web traffic and selling ads.
Internal Google emails, presented as evidence in the lawsuit, supported the claims that users in incognito mode were being monitored by the tech giant. The class action lawsuit, originally filed in 2020, estimated that millions of individuals were likely affected. The plaintiffs’ lawyers sought a minimum of $5,000 for each user tracked by Google Analytics or Ad Manager services while in private browsing mode and not logged into their Google account.
Although the settlement amount has not been revealed, it is expected to be lower than the estimated $5 billion. The agreement is still subject to court approval, and a formal settlement is anticipated by February 24, 2024. Neither Google nor the consumers’ lawyers provided any comments on the settlement.
This development comes shortly after Google’s request to have the case decided by a judge instead of a jury was denied. The lawsuit, filed in a California court, accused Google of deliberately deceiving users with the incognito option and infringing on their privacy rights. It alleged that Google and its employees had access to personal and intimate information about individuals’ lives, interests, and internet usage.
Class action lawsuits have become a popular means of addressing data privacy concerns involving big tech companies in the United States. The country lacks comprehensive legislation on the handling of personal data, making such lawsuits an important avenue for holding companies accountable. In a previous case, Google paid $23 million in August to settle allegations of granting third parties access to user search data. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, also reached a settlement in 2022, agreeing to pay $725 million over the mishandling of user data.
The settlement in the Google lawsuit marks a significant step in addressing privacy concerns related to online browsing and user data tracking. It highlights the need for transparency and clear communication from tech companies regarding their data collection and tracking practices. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly important for users to be aware of their privacy rights and for companies to uphold these rights in their services.