Google’s ‘private browsing’ mode isn’t really private, Texas lawsuit claims

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) – The Google search engine collects data on users who believe they can remain anonymous if they use a “private browsing” mode, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a filing on Thursday. an amended complaint against Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O).

Texas, Indiana, Washington State and the District of Columbia filed separate lawsuits against Google in January in state courts over what they called deceptive location-tracking practices that invade the privacy of users. users.

Paxton’s filing adds Google’s Incognito mode to the lawsuit filed in January. Incognito mode or “incognito browsing” is a web browser feature that Paxton says implies that Google will not track search history or location activity.

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The lawsuit said that Google offers the option of “private browsing” which could include “viewing very personal websites that could indicate, for example, their medical history, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Or perhaps that ‘they just want to buy a surprise gift without the gift recipient being notified by a deluge of targeted advertising.’

The lawsuit said “in reality, Google is deceptively collecting a set of personal data even when a user has enabled Incognito mode.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In January, the company said “Attorneys General are suing based on inaccurate allegations and outdated assertions about our settings. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data.” .

Paxton had previously alleged that Google was misleading consumers by continuing to track their location even when users sought to prevent it.

Google has a “Location History” setting and notifies users if they turn it off “the places you go are no longer stored,” Texas said.

In January, an Arizona judge ruled that allegations that Google tricked users with unclear smartphone location settings should be heard by a jury, refusing to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of the state.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio

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