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Judge "Disturbed" To Learn Google Tracks 'Incognito' Users, Demands Answers

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Feb 27, 2021 - 05:00 PM

A US District Judge in San Jose, California says she was "disturbed" over Google's data collection practices, after learning that the company still collects and uses data from users in its Chrome browser's so-called 'incognito' mode - and has demanded an explanation "about what exactly Google does," according to Bloomberg.

In a class-action lawsuit that describes the company's private browsing claims as a "ruse" - and "seeks $5,000 in damages for each of the millions of people whose privacy has been compromised since June of 2016," US District Judge Lucy Koh said she finds it "unusual" that the company would make the "extra effort" to gather user data if it doesn't actually use the information for targeted advertising or to build user profiles.

Koh has a long history with the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary, previously forcing the Mountain View, California-based company to disclose its scanning of emails for the purposes of targeted advertising and profile building.

In this case, Google is accused of relying on pieces of its code within websites that use its analytics and advertising services to scrape users’ supposedly private browsing history and send copies of it to Google’s servers. Google makes it seem like private browsing mode gives users more control of their data, Amanda Bonn, a lawyer representing users, told Koh. In reality, “Google is saying there’s basically very little you can do to prevent us from collecting your data, and that’s what you should assume we’re doing,” Bonn said.

Andrew Schapiro, a lawyer for Google, argued the company’s privacy policy “expressly discloses” its practices. “The data collection at issue is disclosed,” he said.Another lawyer for Google, Stephen Broome, said website owners who contract with the company to use its analytics or other services are well aware of the data collection described in the suit. -Bloomberg

Koh isn't buying it - arguing that the company is effectively tricking users under the impression that their information is not being transmitted to the company.

"I want a declaration from Google on what information they’re collecting on users to the court’s website, and what that’s used for," Koh demanded.

The case is Brown v. Google, 20-cv-03664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose), via Bloomberg.

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