Google Settles $5B Lawsuit Over Breaching User Privacy

Tech giant Google reached a settlement in a $5 billion class-action lawsuit that alleged the company tracked users even when they chose the “incognito” mode on its popular Chrome browser.

The company was accused of spying on its customers to observe their internet activity. This was done, according to the suit, after Google led users to believe their online activities were private by implementing various privacy modes.

Despite these assurances, Google still tracked web surfers to monitor traffic and target advertisements.

The plaintiffs charged that the company still actively recorded site visits and other internet activities. They also accused the Silicon Valley corporation of harvesting an “unaccountable trove of information” from users who reasonably believed their activities were anonymous.

So much for the “private” browsing modes Google touted to the public.

Attorneys initially sought a minimum of $5,000 for every user tracked by Google Analytics or Ad Manager. These functions followed digital activities even when the individual was not logged into Google or enabled so-called “private” settings.

That math would have added up to $5 billion, the initial amount sought by the plaintiffs.

The complaint charged that Google made itself a sweeping deposit of user data “so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed of.”

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and it still must be approved by a judge. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs told reporters they expect to present a final settlement agreement to the court in February.

The announcement followed Thursday’s action by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in California. She set a trial date of Feb. 5, 2024 if the sides were not able to reach a deal.

This may have proved to be the impetus to get the plaintiffs and Google on the same page with a preliminary resolution. By the end of the week, an agreement had been hammered out between the warring parties.

U.S. law governing personal data is murky at best. This often results in class-action lawsuits that address issues such as the raiding of private information by big tech companies.