Google’s Mystery $5bn Lawsuit Settlement – What We Know So Far

Who could be eligible for a pay out, how much may be offered, and when we'll know full details of Google's latest settlement.

Google has agreed to an out of court settlement in the $5 billion Incognito mode tracking lawsuit it was facing in California, with full details expected to be announced in early 2024.

Lawyers for the internet giant reached an agreement with those representing the consumer plaintiffs, details of which have not been made public but are likely to come to light when they receive final approval from the California court overseeing the 2020 class-action lawsuit.

The agreement, which was reached through mediation, will be presented to U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California in late-January with a deadline for final approval of February 24, 2024. The class-action lawsuit was originally scheduled to go to trial on February 4.

Why Was Google Facing a $5bn Class-Action Settlement?

The class-action lawsuit Google has agreed to settle was filed back in 2020 and by a trio of consumers: William Byatt of Florida, alongside Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen, both of California.

It alleges that Google continued to collect vast amounts of directly identifiable user, even when Chrome’s so-called “private” browsing mode Incognito was being used. This is said to include the content of websites being visited, along with device data and IP addresses.

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Google sought to have the lawsuit thrown out of court back in August 2023, but Judge Rodgers dismissed the motion on the basis that the Alphabet owned internet giant never “explicitly told users” that data was still being collected when browsing in Incognito mode.

The alleged scale of data that was still being collected by Google through third-party websites using tools like Analytics and Ad Manager highlights why privacy conscious internet users should invest in one of the best cheap VPNs as one of their 2024 New Year’s resolutions.

Who Might be Eligible for the Google Incognito Mode Settlement?

That’s the big question, and right now official information is scant as the lawyers involved in the settlement are staying tight-lipped

However, we do know that the original lawsuit covered the “millions” of Americans who used Google Chrome’s Incognito mode from June 1, 2016 until it was filed in 2020.

There may well be some refinement of this far-reaching user group in the final settlement that’s been agreed, so stay tuned as we’ll update this article with more information as soon as it becomes available in January and February 2024.

How Much Could the Google Incognito Mode Settlement Pay Out Be?

This is another key detail that’s not likely to be confirmed until early-2024, when the Google settlement is finalized by the courts.

However, we do know that the original lawsuit sought damages of up to $5,000 per user in the case that Google was found guilty of violating local wiretap laws in California.

That figure would have been less if you weren’t affected by this particularly egregious violation of consumer privacy, but had still fallen foul of unwanted Chrome Incognito mode tracking.

We’ll report on the final details of the Google settlement as soon as they become available next year, but for now our educated guess is that Chrome Incognito mode users may be entitled to anywhere from $20 to a couple of hundred bucks.

By way of background, when Google paid out in a $23 million settlement in 2023, successful claimants got $7-8 a head.

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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