Google tracks and collects data on consumer browsing habits and other internet activity “no matter what safeguards” are employed to protect against prying eyes, a proposed class action alleges.
Filed against Google LLC and parent company Alphabet Inc., the sweeping 37-page case says the search giant purports that consumers are in control of what information they share with the company. Further, Google represents that privacy settings can be used across its services to govern what information is collected and how it’s used, the suit adds.
The complaint alleges, however, that “[n]othing could be further from the truth."
In reality, not even “private browsing mode”—including Google’s “incognito mode”—keeps user data out of the hands of Google and Alphabet, the suit says. According to the lawsuit, Google utilizes its Analytics, Ad Manager and an assortment of other apps and website plug-ins to surreptitiously track nearly every move a user makes online, including webpages visited and apps opened. More specifically, Google collects detailed personal information that includes users’ IP addresses (which can provide geographic information), what a user is viewing, what the individual last viewed, and specifics about the user’s device, the case alleges.
As the lawsuit tells it, Google vacuums up user data regardless of whether an individual clicks on a Google-supported ad or even knows it exists. The totality of Google and Alphabet’s data collection and surveillance amounts essentially to a real-time report on the internet behavior of millions of people run billions of times per day, the suit asserts.
Though Google has advised that consumers can browse the web privately and stay in control of the information they share with the company, in particular through the use of private browsing mode in any major web browser, the defendant’s assurances are untrue, the complaint continues, as neither step can prevent Google from tracking, collecting and identifying browsing data in real time.
Moreover, Google’s data collection, tracking and storage practices open the door for potential misuse by third parties with varying intentions, the complaint says. From the lawsuit:
“Google’s practices infringe upon users’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Google and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and internet usage; and make Google ’one stop shopping’ for any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”
Through its ubiquitous data collection, Google “knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet,” the lawsuit goes on. In all, the defendants have made themselves unaccountable for the trove of information they’ve acquired, a cache so detailed and expansive that “George Orwell could never have dreamed it,” according to the suit.
Relaying that federal and state privacy laws prohibit the unauthorized interception of confidential communications, the lawsuit alleges violations of the federal Wiretap Act, California Invasion of Privacy Act and invasions of privacy and intrusion upon seclusion. The latest in a longlineage of proposedclassactions against Google over its datacollection and user privacy practices, the lawsuit comes on the heels of a case brought on May 27 over claims that Google and Alphabet wield monopolistic control over the online advertising industry.
The suit looks to represent those whose internet use was tracked by Google between June 1, 2016 and the present while browsing in “private browsing mode” and who did not log into their Google account on a device’s web browser during that session.
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