In a significant development a federal judge in California has ruled that plaintiffs who have accused Alphabet Inc’s Google of unlawfully tracking their internet usage while they were on “Incognito” browsing mode, can question its CEO Sundar Pichai for up to two hours.
In June 2020, Google users filed a lawsuit alleging that the company invaded their privacy by tracking internet usage even when they were using the company’s web browser, Google Chrome, in “private” mode.
The plaintiffs have argued that Pichai has “unique, personal knowledge” of issues relating to the Chrome browser and privacy concerns, showed court filing.
In response, Google’s spokesman José Castañeda said, the new requests were “unwarranted and overreaching”.
“While we strongly dispute the claims in this case, we have cooperated with plaintiffs’ countless requests … We will continue to vigorously defend ourselves,” said Castañeda.
In 2019, Pichai was warned of describing the company’s Incognito browsing mode as “private” was problematic; despite such guidance, Pichai stayed the course because he did not want the feature “under the spotlight” showed a court filing.
In her order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen in San Jose, California, said “a few documents establish that specific relevant information was communicated to, and possibly from, Pichai,” and therefore supported a request from the plaintiffs’ lawyers to question him.
Earlier Google had made it clear that Incognito only stops data from being saved to a user’s device and is fighting the lawsuit.
In recent years, Google’s privacy disclosures have generated regulatory and legal scrutiny midst growing public concerns of online surveillance.