Google: Privacy Is Number One?

September 19, 2023

Big tech companies like Google do not respect users’ privacy rights. Yes, these companies have privacy statements and other legal documents that state they respect individuals’ privacy but it is all smoke and mirrors. The Verge has the lowdown on a privacy lawsuit filed against Google and a judge’s recent decision: “$5 Billion Google Lawsuit Over ‘Incognito Mode’ Tracking Moves A Step Closer To Trial.”

Chasom Brown, Willian Byatt, Jeremy Davis, Christopher Castillo, and Monique Trujillo filed a class action lawsuit against Google for collecting user information while in “incognito mode.” Publicly known as Chasom Brown, et. Al v. Google, the plaintiffs seek $5 billion in damages. Google requested a summary judgment, but Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of California denied it.

Judge Gonzalez noted that statements in the Chrome privacy nonie, Privacy Policy, Incognito Splash Screen, and Search & Browse Privately Help page explains how Incognito mode limits information and how people can control what information is shared. The judge wants the court to decide if these notices act as a binding agreement between Google and users that the former would not collect users’ data when they browsed privately.

Google disputes the claims and state that every time a new incognito tab is opened, Web sites might collect user information. There are other issues the plaintiffs and judge want to discuss:

“Another issue going against Google’s arguments that the judge mentioned is that the plaintiffs have evidence Google ‘stores users’ regular and private browsing data in the same logs; it uses those mixed logs to send users personalized ads; and, even if the individual data points gathered are anonymous by themselves, when aggregated, Google can use them to ‘uniquely identify a user with a high probability of success.’’

She also responded to a Google argument that the plaintiffs didn’t suffer economic injury, writing that ‘Plaintiffs have shown that there is a market for their browsing data and Google’s alleged surreptitious collection of the data inhibited plaintiffs’ ability to participate in that market…Finally, given the nature of Google’s data collection, the Court is satisfied that money damages alone are not an adequate remedy. Injunctive relief is necessary to address Google’s ongoing collection of users’ private browsing data.’”

Will Chasom Brown, et. Al v. Google go anywhere beyond the California court? Will the rest of the United States and other countries that have a large Google market, the European Union, do anything?

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2023


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