Google settles $5 billion privacy lawsuit after secretly monitoring users in Incognito mode.

Google settles $5 billion privacy lawsuit after secretly monitoring users in Incognito mode.

Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, agreed to a settlement with a class action lawsuit that alleged the company secretly monitored the online activities of millions of users who believed they were using the internet in private.

The proposed class action was put on hold Thursday after attorneys for Google and consumer advocates announced a preliminary settlement.

The trial in the case was set to begin on February 5, 2024. The judge overseeing the case, Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, in Oakland, Calif., ordered the postponement of the trial.

The lawsuit asked for a minimum of $5 billion in damages. The terms of the settlement have not yet been made public, but attorneys for the parties have said they settled the dispute through mediation and plan to submit the settlement to the court for approval by February 24, 2024.

The use of the term “incognito” does not mean that the user is “invisible” and that the activity of the user during that session is visible to the websites that the user visits and any third party analytics or ads services that the visited websites use.

In response to a request for comment, a Google spokesperson, Jose Castañeda, stated in an email that Google does not agree with the allegations made in the lawsuit and will vigorously contest them.

Neither Google nor lawyers for the plaintiff consumers immediately responded to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs claimed that Google’s analytics, cookies, and applications enabled the Alphabet unit to monitor their conduct despite the fact that they had set Google’s Chrome browser to “Incognito” mode and all other browsers to “private” browsing mode.

His claim was that he had made Google an “unaccountable mass of data” by allowing the search engine to learn about his friends, interests, food preferences, shopping patterns, and the “potentially offensive things” he looked up online.

In August of this year, Rogers denied Google’s request to dismiss the suit.

Rogers ruled that it was unclear whether Google had given a legally binding undertaking not to collect user information when users were browsing in their private mode. Rogers cited Google’s privacy policy, as well as other statements by Google that indicated limitations on what information Google could collect.

Filed in January 2020, the suit named “millions of Google users” as defendants and sought compensatory and punitive damages totaling $5,000 per affected user for violations of Federal Wiretapping and California Privacy laws dating back to June 1, 2016.