Alphabet Inc.’s Google defeated a privacy lawsuit by consumers who accused the company of snooping on them even after they opted out of sharing their web activity.
US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Monday dismissed claims that Google tracked users’ personal information, including IP addresses and browsing history, if they chose not to “Sync” their Google accounts with Chrome — and even if they didn’t have an account.
“Google adequately disclosed, and plaintiffs consented to, the collection of the at-issue data,” Rogers wrote in dismissing the suit.
Rogers also ruled on another Chrome privacy case involving the “Incognito Mode” feature that lets people surf the web privately. She let tens of millions of Google users to join the suit launched by a handful of consumers claiming that the search giant scoops up data even when “Incognito Mode” is turned on. The users can’t seek monetary compensation though, only relief that would block the company from further collecting private browsing information and to push it to delete previously gathered data.
A spokesperson for Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google faces a raft of privacy suits brought by states including Arizona and consumers as well as intense scrutiny by lawmakers over its data-gathering practices. The technology giant has said that in 2024 it will eliminate third-party cookies that help advertisers keep tabs on consumers’ web activity and won’t employ alternative methods to track individuals.
In a bid to keep the Incognito case from expanding, Google had argued in a court filing that many potential class members knew about the company’s data collection and consented to it.
Court filings revealed a paper trail highlighting frustration among Google’s employees over Incognito Mode’s branding, including a 2021 email from the company’s marketing head telling Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai that the feature “isn’t truly private.”
Google has fended off two attempts by plaintiffs to force Pichai to submit to questioning under oath.
The cases are Calhoun v. Google, 20-cv-05146, and Brown v. Google LLC, 20-3664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).
Photo: The logo of Google Inc. Chrome. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
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