Business Insider reported that in California Google users filed a class-action lawsuit against the search giant and its parent company, Alphabet, for intercepting, tracking, and collecting data through its web browser Chrome even when they select "incognito" or private mode. The plaintiffs claim that this practice of gathering users' data and internet activity violates their privacy rights.
The article explained that "When you open a Google Chrome window in incognito mode, the program does not save your search history, but analytics data is still sent to the websites you visit via Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager. When you open an Incognito window, the browser tells you your data may still be visible to 'websites you visit,' 'your employer or school,' and 'your Internet service provider.'"
Plaintiffs seek a minimum of $5 billion in damages based on Google's misleading option to use a private mode which "intentionally deceive[s] consumers."
A Google spokesman told Business Insider, "Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. 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." He added, "We strongly dispute these claims and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them."
Turns out that personal data is a precious commodity. Users freely and sometimes unknowingly give it away when surfing the internet or using apps. The information gathered helps companies build consumers' profiles to push targetted products and services. This has become a big business now as companies are willing to pay a lot of money for such data, which can help them better understand and tailor their efforts toward specific segments of the market.
According to Forbes, "...the real power...is when you can assemble enough data to make very unobvious predictions—about what you’re going to buy, how much you’re willing to pay, who you’re going to vote for. This is what’s meant by 'big data.' It has already revolutionized marketing and advertising, and some believe we’re only getting started."
Privacy violation cases involving big tech giants like Google, Facebook, Zoom, Uber and Amazon, are making consumers more aware of the misuse of personal information. The outcomes of these cases are also being closely watched by companies in similar industries. As a result, the lawsuits improve business transparency, accountability, and corporate policies that are hopefully balanced somewhere between maximizing profitability and social or moral responsibility to their customers. This will help to potentially avoid future class action lawsuits and settlements.