Private Browsing Mode

Private Browsing Mode for Google Not Private, Lawsuits Say: Data Privacy Trends

Three states and one district say that Google’s private browsing mode isn’t private, Google says otherwise. Who do you believe?

According to Reuters (Google ‘private browsing’ mode not really private, Texas lawsuit says, written by David Shepardson), Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed on Thursday that the Google search engine collects data on users who think they can be anonymous if they use a private browsing mode, filing an amended privacy lawsuit against the Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit.

Texas, Indiana, Washington State and the District of Columbia filed separate suits against Google in January in state courts over what they called deceptive location-tracking practices that invade users’ privacy. Paxton’s filing last week adds Google’s Incognito mode to the lawsuit filed in January. Incognito mode or private browsing is a web browser function that Paxton said implies Google will not track search history or location activity.

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The lawsuit said Google offers the option of “private browsing” that could include “viewing highly personal websites that might indicate, for example, their medical history, political persuasion, or sexual orientation. Or maybe they simply want to buy a surprise gift without the gift recipient being tipped off by a barrage of targeted ads.” But the suit said that “in reality, Google deceptively collects an array of personal data even when a user has engaged Incognito mode.”

Google said on Thursday that Paxton’s filing is again “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data.”

“We strongly dispute these claims and will vigorously defend ourselves to set the record straight,” it added.

Paxton previously alleged Google misled consumers by continuing to track their location even when users sought to prevent it. And in January, an Arizona judge ruled allegations Google deceived users with unclear smartphone location tracking settings should be weighed by a jury, refusing to toss out a lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general.

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I’m not surprised to see lawsuits about Google’s privacy settings for location tracking and their private browsing mode and it will be interesting to see how these lawsuits develop. Stay tuned!

Hat tip to Brad Mixner and his Mixner Consulting Group for sharing the story!

So, what do you think?  Do you think Google’s private browsing mode is really private?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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