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How Google Incognito Is Not Actually So "Incognito"

Incognito mode compromised by… Google?

Apparently, the ever-favorite “Google Incognito Mode” for the Google Chrome web browser may not be as secure and private as the browsing mode leads people to believe.

Currently, there is a lawsuit filed against Google that is seeking action in the amount of $5 billion, coming from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The U.S. court has complained that using the Google Chrome Incognito Mode doesn’t actually protect you from your data being sent out and saved on the internet when browsing incognito, despite the browser stating that browsing history, cookies, site data and form inputs will not be saved. The web browser specifically states upon opening that “Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity, however downloads and bookmarks will be saved. Chrome won’t save the following information:

  • Browsing history
  • Cookies and site data
  • Information entered in forms

However, your activity might be visible to:

  • Websites you visit
  • Your employer or school
  • Your internet service provider

The wording of “what is” and “what may” be available to particular parties is stated pretty plainly once incognito mode is opened.

However, the lawsuit states that it is specifically taking action against Google because the U.S. court believes that Google is collecting, tracking, and saving user history and other web activity while using incognito mode on the Chrome browser, despite the aforementioned message stating otherwise.

Google has responded saying that:

 “The company will defend itself vigorously against the claims, which is strongly disputed.” Because “Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser and device, and that it clearly states other sites may save your information while browsing their sites”.

Will This Case Really Hold?

So, naturally it would seem that this lawsuit doesn’t hold up right? Well there is more to it. The U.S. court is claiming that Google is accomplishing its tracking not through the web browser, but through other methods such as Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and the Google Sign-In button for websites. It seems that the lack of acknowledgment of these other Google operations in the Incognito Mode disclaimer is where the real lawsuit takes place. The complaint states that by Google collecting and identifying this data through these other means, they are in contravention of both federal and state laws on wiretapping, which allows people the right to sue if private communications are intercepted.

So, it’s only natural that you’re curious if you are eligible for the $5000 payout then, since you, a Google Chrome Incognito Mode user, are now feeling worried about your data being in the wrong places. Well, the class-action lawsuit is seeking damages of $5000 for each user who has browsed the internet in Incognito Mode since June 1st, 2016. Naturally, that could be millions of users, and cost Google upwards of $5 billion in damages, if the lawsuit does indeed follow through to success. It is still too early to know if the case will succeed, so it would be best not to get your hopes up just yet.

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