Google Updates Information on Chrome ‘Incognito’ Tab After Lawsuit Alleging Activity Tracking

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Google is sharing updated information regarding its Chrome “incognito mode” after settling a $5 billion class-action privacy lawsuit with internet users who accused the tech giant of secretly tracking them when they believed they were browsing privately.

The updated message appears for Google users whose devices are running on the latest Canary build of Google Chrome, version 122.0.6251.0, when they open a new incognito tab or window, according to reports.

It clarifies that websites and services, including Google, that are accessed by the user, can collect their data, even if they are browsing in incognito mode.

“Others who use this device won’t see your activity, so you can browse more privately,” the updated message states. “This won’t change how data is collected by websites you visit and the services they use, including Google. Downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved.”

The updated message goes on to state that Chrome will not save things such as a user’s browsing history, cookies, site data, or any information they enter into online forms.

It adds that browsing activity might still be visible to “websites you visit, your employer or school,” and “your internet service provider.”

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Previously when Chrome users attempted to access “incognito mode,” they were greeted with a message that did not mention how their data might be collected on websites and services, including Google.

Lawsuit Alleges Activity Tracking

It did, however, include information regarding browsing history, cookies, site data, and how the browsing activity might be visible to employers or schools, among others.

“Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads, bookmarks, and reading list items will be saved,” the previous message read.

Google’s updated message comes after the tech giant in December settled a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020 by five plaintiffs, on behalf of millions of Google users.

The lawsuit accused the company of tracking user activity and history through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, even when they set Google’s Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode.

Plaintiffs alleged that Google violated California’s privacy laws as well as federal wire-tapping regulations in doing so.

They further argued that Google uses this private browsing history to build up user profiles, allowing it to promote better-targeted advertisements.

Google ‘Pleased to Resolve’ Case

Google’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is overseeing the case in California court, in August last year.

In her ruling, Judge Rogers claimed the tech giant had represented to plaintiffs it would not collect their information while they browsed privately, but “did so anyway, collecting, aggregating, and selling plaintiffs’ private browsing data without their consent.”

The company had argued that it informed users about the types of tracking that can still take place in incognito mode.

“As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told The Verge in a statement last year.

In December, Google agreed to settle the case under undisclosed terms.

Following the updated information to its Chrome “incognito mode,” Mr. Castañeda said in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday that the tech giant is “pleased to resolve this case, which we’ve long disputed, and will provide even more information to users about Incognito Mode.”

“Incognito mode in Chrome will continue to give people the choice to browse the internet without their activity being saved to their browser or device,” the spokesperson added.

The Epoch Times has contacted a Google spokesperson for further comment.

Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

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