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Lawsuits & Litigation

Alphabet Inc., Google Sued for Discreetly Tracking User Activity Without Consent

— July 16, 2020

Google allegedly collects information on users who specifically opted-out of its data tracking services.

Alphabet Inc., the parent company of search goliath Google, is facing a lawsuit alleging mass privacy violations.

According to Reuters, Google collects and stores information from hundreds of thousands of people across different phone applications. While data collection has long been one of Google’s most profitable mainstays, the lawsuit—filed Tuesday by the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm—claims the search engine records the activity of consumers who opt out of tracking.

The complaint, says, explains how Google monitors app activity through Firebase, “a suite of software tools that app makers use to store data, send notifications and ads, and track glitches and clicks.”

“Through Firebase SDK,” the lawsuit states, “Google can log the user’s interactions with the app, including viewing content, creating new content, or sharing content.”

Although Google anonymizes the brunt of consumer information, the company nonetheless retains the ability to see what users are doing, regardless of whether they have consented to activity tracking.

Google Search Screen
Google Search Screen; image courtesy of Simon via pixabay,

“Even when consumers follow Google’s own instructions and turn off “Web & App Activity’ tracking on their ‘Privacy Controls,’ Google nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app usage and app browsing communications and personal information,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint further contends that Google uses the information it has on users to improve its products and personalize advertisements.

The lawsuit is the second case registered against the company in the past month.

Another suit—detailed by LegalReader in June—accuses Google of similarly tracking Google Chrome users’ activity in its “Incognito” browsing mode. The lawsuit claims that Google’s incognito mode deceives consumers into believing that their web history and browsing habits will not be intercepted, stored, or analyzed.

But Google tracks users through third-party services offered to content publishers and website operators.

“Google track sand collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy,” the second lawsuit says.

However, Google has defended its approach—in a statement to DigitalTrends, a Google spokesperson said that Chrome’s incognito mode does not pretend to be foolproof.

“Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device,” the spokesperson said. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”

Google has previously faced lawsuits and complaints over its location tracking services, such as Location History. An article on details how the company was similarly accused of obtaining the location data of users who had also opted out of Google’s Location History and Location Services options.


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