New Delhi: World’s most popular search engine maker Google is facing a $5 billion class-action lawsuit on a complaint that it is tracking and collecting user data even when people use the private ‘Incognito’ mode on the Chrome browser. District Judge Lucy Koh in the state of California ruled that Google “did not notify users” that it engages in wiretapping, breaching privacy laws for intercepting, tracking, and collecting communications.Also Read - As Omicron Looms, Google Delays Mandatory Return-to-office Beyond Jan 10

“Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads and bookmarks will be saved,” the Google incognito mode reads, giving users the apparent choice to browse the internet without their activities being saved to either browser or devices. Also Read - Scan Your Documents Using Google Chromebook Camera | All You Need to Know

A Google spokesperson told The Verge on Saturday that the company disputes the lawsuit’s claims. “We will defend ourselves vigorously against them,” the spokesperson said. Also Read - Making India Proud! From Parag Agrawal to Sundar Pichai, 10 Indian-Origin CEOs Who Are Heading World's Biggest Companies

Why is Google facing lawsuit over incognito browsing mode?

A class-action lawsuit, originally filed in June 2020 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of three Google account users – Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen, both of Los Angeles, and William Byatt, a Florida resident.

The complaint claimed that Google has a “pervasive data tracking business”. They alleged in the lawsuit that the “tracking persists even if users take steps to protect their private information, such as using incognito mode in Chrome, or private browsing in Safari and other browsers”.

The lawsuit claimed that even when a user surfs the browser on incognito mode, Google uses other tracking tools for website publishers and advertisers to keep tabs on what websites the user visits.

What is Google’s stance?

On its part, Google has already announced to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome browser. It had announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies last year.

The company has said that once third-party cookies are phased out from its platforms, it will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will it use them in its products.