Is your search activity truly private in private mode?
Google has finally settled a lawsuit from June 2020 alleging that users were misled by having their activity tracked while browsing in incognito mode. According to The Hacker News, the plaintiffs filed a claim that Google violated federal wiretap laws by using Google Analytics to collect information when in private mode.
The case is a vital reminder of the importance of reading the fine print when it comes to your privacy. Google’s displayed message informs users that their search activity is potentially still visible to websites they visit, employers or schools, or to their internet service provider.
A common misconception is that enabling private mode ensures searches will not be traced or tracked whatsoever. In reality, incognito mode simply means that user activity will not be saved locally to the browser. This means that websites utilizing advertisement technologies and analytics APIs can continue to track and monitor all activity.
Ultimately, the court could not find evidence that Google explicitly consented to the alleged data collection. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
Users must inform themselves of best cyber practices to browse securely. Clearing cache and cookies regularly can help protect your information from websites tracking your data for advertising purposes. To truly be safe, avoid searching or browsing on any websites that you wouldn’t want your employer or anyone else to see.