At the start of June, 3 plaintiffs filed a $5 billion class action lawsuit against Google for breaching the privacy of millions of Chrome users.

The case centres on Google’s ability to ‘pervasively’ track internet use even after consumers switch to Chrome’s ‘incognito mode’. But, this lawsuit isn’t really about private browsing on Chrome or whether Incognito Mode is misleading to users. It’s about individuals having no realistic means to avoid Google’s tracking infrastructure across the internet.

Drawing particular attention to Google Ad Manager and Google Analytics, the case documents describe how the vast majority (over 70%) of websites use one or more services that send personal information to Google before a consumer has a chance to opt-out.

Reading into the lawsuit, it’s clear that the originators of the case are not primarily concerned by the inefficacy of Incognito Mode. A few pages in, numerous citations point to Google's dominance and persistent collection as the intended targets.

“Regardless of whether a user follows Google’s instructions advising how to be online without being tracked by Google, Google still leverages other services to intercept and collect identifying information about who and where individual consumers are.”

The conclusion above speaks to a growing frustration among individuals who want to protect their privacy, but are ultimately left impotent. Worse, companies like Google continue to look consumers in the eye, somehow keeping a straight face, and assure them that their data is both private and under their control.

A $5 Billion Distress Flare for Online Privacy

This lawsuit is evidence of frustration finding an outlet. We are not optimistic that the plaintiffs will receive their compensation, but we recognise the 37 page complaint as a distress flare signalling that the internet is not operating to the benefit of its users. While meaningful regulatory enforcement and industry overhaul is pending, legal action, like this, is sadly one of the only means of meaningfully changing Google’s behaviour.

The alternative to waiting for Google to prioritise privacy is innovation, and Glimpse is one of many companies doing things differently. We are building a completely private and user-centric advertising platform that gives control back to the consumer.

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