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Google’s Deception: Incognito Mode Fails to Protect Your Privacy

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Google’s Deception: Incognito Mode Fails to Protect Your Privacy. For years, countless internet users have hit that little “Incognito Mode” button, believing their web browsing would remain a secret, hidden from prying eyes (including, perhaps, their boss or significant other). But those who relied on this digital veil for privacy just got a rude awakening: Google has agreed to settle a massive $5 billion lawsuit related to allegations that it illegally tracked user data even in Incognito Mode.

Google’s Deception: Incognito Mode Fails to Protect Your Privacy
Google’s Deception: Incognito Mode Fails to Protect Your Privacy Image Credit : ABC Net Au (AP Photo: Peter Morgan )

The lawsuit, filed in 2020, claimed that Google used cookies, analytics tools, and other methods to gather user data while they were supposedly browsing privately. This data, the lawsuit alleged, was then used for targeted advertising and other commercial purposes.

Though Google maintains that user privacy is a top priority, the settlement signifies a major victory for consumers and raises serious questions about the limitations of Incognito Mode. If Google could track users in this supposedly private setting, can we ever truly trust our online anonymity?

What does this mean for you, the everyday web user? Here are some key takeaways:

  • Think twice before using Incognito Mode: While it may offer some level of privacy protection, it’s not foolproof. Google, and potentially other websites, might still be collecting some data on your activity.
  • Consider alternatives: Privacy-focused browsers like DuckDuckGo and Firefox offer features designed to minimize data collection and tracking.
  • Be mindful of cookies: Regularly clear your browser cookies and browsing history to limit the amount of data stored on your device.
  • Read website privacy policies: Before using any online service, understand how your data will be collected and used.

The Google Incognito Mode lawsuit settlement serves as a stark reminder that our online privacy is far from guaranteed. While technology offers incredible convenience and connection, it also opens doors for potential privacy violations. It’s crucial to be aware of the limitations of privacy tools and take proactive steps to protect your data.

Incognito Mode
Incognito Mode

Reuters on the Incognito Mode lawsuit

Alphabet’s Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of secretly tracking the internet use of millions of people who thought they were browsing privately. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2020, sought at least $5 billion in damages and covered “millions” of Google users since June 1, 2016.

The plaintiffs alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps let the company track their activity even when they set Google’s Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode. In August, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected Google’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit. She said it was an open question whether Google had made a legally binding promise not to collect users’ data when they browsed in private mode.

The judge cited Google’s privacy policy and other statements by the company that suggested limits on what information it might collect. On Thursday, lawyers for Google and for consumers said they had reached a preliminary settlement, and expected to present a formal settlement for court approval by Feb. 24, 2024. Neither Google nor lawyers for the plaintiff consumers immediately responded to requests for comment

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