Google May Have To Cough Up $5 Billion In Fine For Tracking Users In Incognito Mode!

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The new fine of Google could make a big dent in the financial book of the internet behemoth. Google’s upcoming tryst with a lawsuit filed last year can lead to the Alphabet-owned search giant paying out a hefty fine of a whopping $5 billion!

On Friday, a judge in California ruled that Google has to soon face a class-action lawsuit that claims that the search behemoth has been snooping on users’ data even when they have been using Chrome’s private ‘incognito’ mode.

Filed by three Chrome users back in June 2020, the lawsuit alleges that Google employs pervasive data tracking technologies that are not hindered even if users go the extra mile to protect their private information by turning on Chrome’s incognito mode.

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At first, Google quite obviously sought to have the lawsuit rejected. However, U.S District Judge Lucy Koh had planned otherwise. In her ruling, she mentioned that the company has failed to notify users about their alleged data collection practices while users have their private mode on.

Google, in response to the ruling, via a court filing, said that the ‘incognito’ mode is not equivalent to ‘invisible’ mode. Therefore, a user’s activity during a private browsing session may be visible to the websites they visit along with third-party analytics or ad services that are enabled on the same.

On Saturday, Google spokesperson José Castañeda, in an email response to a query regarding the lawsuit, mentioned that the company vehemently disagrees with the lawsuit’s claims and will surely defend itself in the upcoming legal proceedings.

Furthermore, he also explained that the primary purpose of Google Chrome’s incognito mode is to allow users to browse the internet without having their activity saved on the browser or the device they are using.

This recent ruling comes when big tech is facing intense security from lawmakers and regulators over their unchecked data collecting practices. Earlier this year, in a bid to curb invasive tracking, Google announced that they will phase out third-party cookies and won’t be replacing them with some other technology even though it has the potential of hurting its advertising business. But that’s not all.

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It has also surfaced that the Alphabet-owned giant, following in Apple’s footstep, is currently discussing the possibility to follow anti-tracking route, albeit partially, for Android. Although it won’t be as stringent as the measures adopted by the iOS 14.5 update, it plans to limit data collection to a large extent.

And lastly, Google has recently announced a significant reform when it comes to its ad-buying platform. In the previous week, the search major announced that it will be moving away from individualised cross-site tracking when displaying its ads. At present, the company is busy creating new tools that would allow advertisers to analyse users’ browsing habits on their own device and then target aggregated user cohorts with similar interests.

The possibility of Google coughing up a whopping $5 billion in fine, reminds us of another social media behemoth known, rather accused, for violating users’ privacy and data tracking mechanism. Facebook was made to pay $5 billion in fine in 2019 – the biggest fine in the history of tech. Though the fine amount was equivalent to Facebook’s one-month revenue, the authorities faced severe criticism for slapping the penalty which hardly made any dent on Zuckerberg led social media company. Funny enough, Zuckerberg reportedly made $1 billion from it too.

However, it’s too early to quote any amount of fine Google could potentially face as a result of this legal battle. It would be interesting to see whether Google too find it acceptable and park the fine amount aside just like Facebook did, or it will fight tooth and nail to get rid of it.

We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.

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