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Google’s $5 billion privacy lawsuit continues as judge denies dismissal request

In a blow to tech giant Google, a U.S. judge has turned down its appeal to dismiss a $5 billion privacy lawsuit, arguing that the company may have clandestinely tracked the internet activities of millions of users.

On August 8, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers stated she wasn’t convinced that users had given their consent for Google to amass data on their online behaviours. This is primarily because Alphabet’s division, Google, hadn’t clearly communicated this practice to its users.

Prominent lawyer David Boies, representing the plaintiffs, hailed the judge’s decision as a significant stride towards “protecting the privacy interests of millions of Americans.”

The lawsuit’s root stems from allegations made by plaintiffs, claiming that despite enabling “Incognito” mode on Google’s Chrome browser or setting other browsers to “private” mode, Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps continued to monitor their actions. This, they argue, allowed the California-based behemoth to craft an in-depth and potentially intrusive profile on them, encompassing details about their friends, hobbies, shopping preferences, and even their most secretive online searches. The detail of the data Google allegedly collected was likened to “an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed it.”

Highlighting the crux of the matter in her 36-page ruling, Rogers noted that there was evidence suggesting a potential market for such user data. This was underlined by Google’s pilot initiative that compensated users $3 daily for sharing their browsing histories. Rogers also underscored several Google documents, including excerpts from its privacy policy, which hint at restrictions on the data it might gather. The judge stated, “Taken as a whole, a triable issue exists as to whether these writings created an enforceable promise that Google would not collect users’ data while they browsed privately.”

However, Google remains defiant. Company spokesperson, Jose Castaneda, asserted that the company vehemently contests the accusations and will staunchly defend its stance. Elaborating on the purpose of the incognito mode in Chrome, Castaneda explained, “Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device.” He further clarified, “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”

The ongoing lawsuit encompasses Google users active from June 1, 2016, and aims to secure a minimum of $5,000 in damages for every user, citing breaches of federal wiretapping and California privacy

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