By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

If you haven’t used it, Google Chrome is a web browser that offers an “Incognito” mode.  The idea is that this will allow you to browse privately.

Spoiler Alert – it may not have been all that private.  At least this is the claim of a class-action lawsuit seeking each user to receive a sum of $5000.

In the lawsuit, Google is accused of invading people’s privacy and tracking internet use even when browsers are set to “private” mode. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the tech giant violated wiretapping and privacy laws.

If you open Incognito in Chrome, Google displays a message that states that you can “browse privately” and confirms that other people using the device cannot see your browsing activity. While this message says that downloads and bookmarks will be saved, your browsing history, cookies, site data, and form inputs will not.

“Google tracks and collects consumer browsing history and other web activity data no matter what safeguards consumers undertake to protect their data privacy,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit is seeking at least $5 billion from Google and its parent company, Alphabet Inc. The proposed class-action suit may include millions of Google browser users, which is a potential payout of $5,000 for each affected individual.

This is disputed by Google which according to spokesman Jose Castaneda will “vigorously defend itself against these claims”.


According to the complaint, Google gathers data on individuals via Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and other applications and website plug-ins, which can include smartphone apps.

These applications are usually set up “behind the scenes” on a website you might visit.   The end user who is visiting the site wouldn’t necessarily know that they are being tracked.  These tracking tools are invisible but provide the website operator with information about what you did when at their site.  Which pages you visited and how long would be part of this information.

The purpose of these apps include compiling information to delivery advertisements.  This can include those who you communicate with, your hobbies, work habits, and your shopping habits.  This information may be sold to advertisers and others who buy data.

The complaint states that Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone.”

As we have stated before it is important to consider how you use the Internet.  In some cases it can be best to assume what you look up is public.  While sites such as financial institutions do secure your data, it is always wise  to consider using unique or reserved only for  passwords for sensitive information.   Actually, using a different password for everything Internet based is recommended despite its potential for becoming overwhelming.    If you at least break out specific sites like your bank or health care provider and use different passwords for just those sites, it will improve your security.  It will be better than using the same password for everything.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw