A federal judge has ruled that Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai can be questioned in a lawsuit over the company allegedly tracking users unlawfully.
Like many web browsers, Google Chrome has an “Incognito” mode. Typically, “Private” or “incognito” mode means the browser will not track a user’s activity, and the company behind the browser will not have access to any information about what the user is looking at.
In the case of Chrome, however, Google is accused of continuing to track users, even when Incognito mode was activated. According to Reuters, Pichai was warned in 2019 that Chrome’s Incognito mode could cause problems, given the company described the feature as “private.” Despite the warning, the company continued, since Pichai reportedly didn’t want Incognito mode “under the spotlight.”
Google has clarified that its Incognito mode only means browsing data is not stored locally, but the company still tracks the activity. Needless to say, this definition is not what users expect, nor is it the industry standard.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen in San Jose, California, has ruled that Picahai can be questioned, for up to two hours, since “a few documents establish that specific relevant information was communicated to, and possibly from, Pichai.”
The development is good news for privacy advocates, and not so good news for Google.