On Thursday Reuters reported that Google has agreed to settle a 2020 class-action lawsuit which alleged that the tech giant’s Chrome browser tracked the internet activity of millions of people secretly, even if they had set the browser to its “incognito mode.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California, accused the US company of continuing to “track, collect, and identify browsing data in real time” despite the fact users had set the browser to allow them to perform their browsing privately.

The complainants noted this allowed Google to become an “unaccountable trove of information” on its users due to the company being able to document their friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and “potentially embarrassing things.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Google took the private browser activity which it collected, and then associated it with the user’s already existing public user profiles.

US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, in August, rejected a motion by Google to dismiss the lawsuit, noting that the tech giant had never apprised its users that the data collections it performed were continuing to be performed, even after they had activated the browser’s incognito mode.

Rogers ruled, “Google’s motion hinges on the idea that plaintiffs consented to Google collecting their data while they were browsing in private mode. Because Google never explicitly told users that it does so, the Court cannot find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the at-issue data collection.”

The lawsuit was filed by Florida resident William Byatt and California residents Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen. It will represent “millions” of users of Google, since June of 2016, and sought a minimum of $5 billion, which would work out to about $5,000 per user, based upon the company having committed a violation of wiretap laws.

In a notice filed with the court earlier in the week, it was noted that Google had reached  a preliminary settlement with the plaintiffs which will allow the litigation to be dismissed. Although the terms of the settlement were not revealed, Reuters reported that the lawyers have said they agreed to a binding term sheet through mediation, and will present a formal settlement for court approval by February 24, 2024.

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