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Google Settles Landmark Consumer Privacy Lawsuit Over Alleged Secret Tracking

Google Settles Landmark Consumer Privacy Lawsuit Over Alleged Secret Tracking

Google has reached a settlement in a major consumer privacy lawsuit, agreeing to resolve claims that it clandestinely monitored the online activities of numerous individuals who believed they were browsing in private.

The U.S. District Judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, based in Oakland, California, postponed the scheduled Feb. 5, 2024 trial for the proposed class action after attorneys representing both Google and the consumers confirmed a preliminary settlement.

Although the specifics of the settlement were not disclosed, the legal representatives revealed that they have reached a binding agreement through mediation and anticipate presenting a formal settlement for court approval by Feb. 24, 2024.

Requests for comment from Google and the plaintiff consumers’ legal counsel remained unanswered at the time.

The lawsuit centered on allegations that Google’s use of analytics, cookies, and applications allowed its Alphabet subsidiary to track user activity, even when individuals employed Google’s Chrome browser’s “Incognito” mode or other browsers’ “private” browsing settings.

Plaintiffs argued that this practice transformed Google into an “unregulated repository of information,” granting the company insights into users’ social circles, interests, preferred foods, shopping patterns, and potentially sensitive online searches.

In a prior ruling in August, Judge Rogers dismissed Google’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. She emphasized the ambiguity surrounding whether Google had made a legally binding commitment to refrain from collecting user data during private browsing. References to Google’s privacy policy and statements by the company suggesting limitations on data collection were cited by the judge.

The lawsuit, initiated in 2020, aimed to represent “millions” of Google users from June 1, 2016, seeking damages of at least $5,000 per user for alleged violations of federal wire-tapping and California privacy laws.

The case is officially titled Brown et al v Google LLC et al and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under docket number 20-03664.


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