If the internet is good at anything, it is distributing information, whether or not it makes any sense. seen everything from people believing articles from The Onion to purposeful disinformation campaigns. However, the most common scenario is people simply misunderstanding how things work. That is the basis behind a new class-action lawsuit alleging that Google has violated the US Federal Wiretap Act. This law protects people from the interception of private communications. Originally intended to protect wireline phone conversations, it has been expanded over the years to include other communications. The suit is asking for $5 billion in damages.
The case alleges that Google continues to track users, even when a browser is set to privacy mode. This includes Edge's InPrivate browsing but focuses on Chrome's Incognito Mode. The claim is that Google offers a private browsing experience that doesn't protect users from being tracked. The suit says that Google "cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone."
The problem with the suit is that it is based on a false understanding of Incognito Mode. While it does provide added privacy features, those features are not related to external communications. Instead, Incognito Mode is intended to protect your privacy locally. It allows you to visit websites on a computer without maintaining a local record of that browsing history. While the company may not advertise this version of history, this privacy was created to allow browsing adult content without others who might use your computer knowing what you looked at.
Every time you open a new Incognito tab, you are greeted with some information that describes the nature of the feature. "Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won't see your activity." It goes on to say,
Your activity might still be visible to:
- Websites you visit
- our employer or school
- Your internet service provider
Clearly, Google intends to fight this suit. With the information provided to all users about how the feature works, it likely won't be a difficult fight.