Google has been accused of collecting user’s data even in “private mode”. A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of “millions of individuals” (Google users in U.S.) against internet giant at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. They allege Google has violated the federal wiretap law as well as California privacy law.

It further says that Google accomplished this using means such as Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins on mobile devices and websites. “When an internet user visits a webpage or opens an app that uses such services (over 70% of all online publishers use such a service), Google receives detailed, personal information such as the user’s IP address (which may provide geographic information), what the user is viewing, what the user last viewed, and details about the user’s hardware,” the lawsuit claims.

Significantly, it says that Google takes this data regardless of a person clicking on a Google-supported advertisement.

Moreover, the plaintiffs have charged google of lying to people that they can prevent their data and browsing history while using privacy features.

 It also claims that Google’s interception of user data is “intentional” and “unlawful”. Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman said that the company will defend itself “vigorously” against the claims. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” Castaneda was quoted as saying in the report.

The Federal Wiretap Act prohibits the intentional interception of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication through the use of a safe device. “Google’s actions in intercepting and tracking user communications while they were browsing the internet using a browser while in “private browsing mode” was intentional. On information and belief, Google is aware that it is intercepting communications in these circumstances and has taken no remedial action,” the lawsuit says.

California Invasion of Property Act says the following, “The Legislature hereby declares that advances in science and technology have led to the development of new devices and techniques for the purpose of eavesdropping upon private communications and that the invasion of privacy resulting from the continual and increasing use of such devices and techniques has created a serious threat to the free exercise of personal liberties and cannot be tolerated in a free and civilized society”.

It is not the first time that Google is facing such charges, in fact, last month, the company was sued by Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who alleged that Google violated user privacy by tracking the user location even when it had been turned off.

By Vivek Badoni

Member, Reporters’ Committee                                     

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