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Google will settle Chrome incognito mode class-action suit so nothing will change

The company won't need to admit any wrongdoing or change anything about how incognito mode works.

Published onDecember 28, 2023

Google Chrome Incognito Mode with background
  • Google has agreed to settle a Chrome incognito mode class-action lawsuit.
  • Under the settlement, Google won’t need to admit wrongdoing or change how incognito mode works.
  • The 2020 lawsuit alleged that Google is not transparent about what incognito mode does or doesn’t do.

Back in 2020, a small group of consumers filed a lawsuit against Google. The class-action suit alleged that Chrome’s incognito mode does not fully protect users from internet tracking. The group called this a violation of wiretap laws and sued the company for unspecified damages.

Predictably, Google’s legal team tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. However, in August 2023, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected this bid. Now, just a few months later, Google has agreed to settle the lawsuit (via Ars Technica). As usual, this means the case will not move forward; Google will not need to admit to any wrongdoing and the way incognito mode works will not need to change.

The terms of the planned settlement were not disclosed.

The plaintiffs in this case accused Google of obfuscating the fact that using Chrome’s incognito mode doesn’t prevent the tracking of user activity. The group also said Google can monitor private browsing activity and then associate it with user profiles connected to that Chrome installation.

Google argued that the splash screen that appears when you open an incognito window (see photo above) explains how the service works and protects it from the accusations of this lawsuit. However, the judge didn’t agree. It’s likely Google saw this case as eventually being more expensive and/or more damaging for PR than a settlement would be, which would explain today’s decision.

Google and the plaintiffs will present the court with the terms of the settlements by the end of January 2024. The court will give final approval by the end of February.

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