Google Agrees to Settle $5 bn Lawsuit Over Secret Tracking of Users’ Internet Activity

Alphabet’s Google has opted to settle a high-stakes lawsuit accusing the tech giant of monitoring the online behavior of millions of users who believed their browsing sessions were private, Reuters news report said.
Google Android IndiaU.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, presiding in Oakland, California, made the decision to halt the impending trial set for February 5, 2024, in the proposed class action. This move came following the revelation by attorneys representing both Google and the consumers involved that they had reached a preliminary settlement.

While specific details of the settlement were not disclosed, legal representatives confirmed the agreement to a binding term sheet via mediation. They anticipate presenting a formal settlement for court endorsement by February 24, 2024.

Notably, Google and the attorneys representing the plaintiff consumers have yet to respond to requests for immediate comment regarding this development.

The lawsuit’s core allegations revolved around claims that Google’s suite of analytics, cookies, and applications allowed its subsidiary to track users’ activities even when utilizing Google’s Chrome browser’s “Incognito” mode or other browsers’ “private” browsing settings.

According to the plaintiffs, this practice transformed Google into an “unaccountable repository of information,” granting the company access to details concerning users’ social circles, interests, culinary preferences, shopping behaviors, and potentially sensitive online pursuits.

In a ruling last August, Judge Rogers dismissed Google’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, stating the unresolved query of whether Google had made a legally binding commitment to refrain from harvesting users’ data during private browsing. The judge highlighted references to Google’s privacy policy and the company’s previous statements, which suggested limitations on the data it would collect.

The lawsuit, initiated in 2020, sought restitution for “millions” of Google users dating back to June 1, 2016, with each user seeking a minimum of $5,000 in damages for purported infringements of federal wiretapping laws and California’s privacy statutes.

This case is cataloged as Brown et al v Google LLC et al and is under review in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, bearing the docket number 20-03664.

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