Google accused of violating privacy
Google Chrome, the most used web browser worldwide since 2015, outclassing Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, now has to defend itself against numerous complaints of privacy violation. In fact, it seems that many users have accused Google Chrome of tracking the movements of users even in incognito mode.
This is not the first inconvenience that Google has been facing, considering that the EU has begun to investigate (and investigations continue to this day) some of Google’s movements and fined them three times from 2017 to 2019 for anti-competitive behaviour and improper use of data collection for advertising purposes.
Now the situation has got even more complicated with new allegations concerning the violation of user privacy. The class action lawsuit dates back to June 2020, but these days it has become a full-fledged indictment, declaring that: “Google knows who you are friends with based on who you talk to. It knows what you like and dislike because of your searches, your shopping trends. It even knows your future plans, as your search history writes a story. If you’ve ever searched for homes in a new area, Google knows you’re probably planning on moving. It knows your routine and what is likely going to happen next for you”.
As a result, Google would be required to pay 5 billion dollars in damages. The federal judge of the San José District Court supports the case by arguing that “Google has not informed users that the company collects data while the user is in private browsing mode.”
However, some clarifications are needed regarding this browsing mode on Google Chrome, since actually it never had the purpose of deleting all traces of the user on the web. It is in fact inaccurate to say that Google has not informed its users about data collection during private browsing, since in the window of this mode, on Chrome for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux, the browser specifies the following to the user: “Now you can browse privately. Other people won’t see your activities, but your downloads and favorites will be saved. Chrome will not save the following information: browsing history, cookies and site data, information entered in forms […] your activity may still be visible: to the websites you visit, to your employer or school, to your provider of Internet services “.
Google’s defence is therefore based on the fact that the incognito mode is not intended to make the user invisible on the network, but simply to ensure that he can browse without his activity being saved on the device. According to Google, this disclaimer warns users about the real functions of the incognito mode, but for Lucy Koh it had to be explained with greater clarity and transparency.