If you use the incognito window in Chrome, you can assume that you are anonymous and not being tracked by Google. However? Unfortunately, that's just the question.
Google is being sued in the United States for the way the internet giant collects data from users who surf in Chrome's incognito mode. This is a so-called 'class-action' lawsuit. In a class-action case, more people can join the prosecution.
Many users see incognito mode as a way to avoid being tracked online, but Google is accused of doing so secretly. If the judge upholds the charges, the internet giant can expect a fine of up to 5 billion dollars, converted approximately 4.5 billion euros.
According to the official indictment, Google uses Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and browser plug-ins to collect information that helps the company better understand those who use Chrome. Google wants this information because advertisers pay a lot of money for it.
What does Google actually know about you?
The plaintiffs want damages of $5,000 per affected user, which could amount to $5 billion for Google. Google's practices would go against local California law on wiretapping and privacy.
According to the indictment, Google can learn about users' friends, hobbies, favorite foods and shopping habits, and even the "most intimate and potentially embarrassing things" they search for online. Even if they surf through the incognito window.
"Google is no longer allowed to collect unsolicited data from virtually anyone with a computer or a telephone," the indictment reads.
Incognito mode is seen as a safer way to surf online because browser history is not tracked, cookies are not saved on the computer and the cache is immediately emptied. Despite this, security experts have long argued that incognito mode can also collect information about your interests and preferences.
Google has responded to the allegations and believes that the company is transparent enough when it comes to how the internet company collects data and for what purposes this data is used. The internet giant says it will "defend itself vigorously" against the claims.
"As we clearly state when users use incognito mode, websites can still get information about users' browsing habits," a Google spokesperson said.