Leaked emails show Google employees HACKED company’s “incognito mode” browser — saying it’s “not really private” — as consumer lawsuit seeks BILLIONS in damages for company’s false promises
- Google employees mocked the company’s false advertising of the ‘incognito mode’ private browsing capability in a series of leaked emails from 2018
- Engineers at the company suggested the tech giant ditch the name ‘incognito mode’ after a study was published about the browser’s lack of protection
- A judge in Oakland, Calif., will review the emails along with other documentation and decide whether a consumer lawsuit targeting the feature will proceed
Leaked emails reveal that Google employees mocked the company’s ‘incognito mode’ browser feature, saying it was not ‘truly private’ as the tech giant suggests.
In a series of emails cited in a California-based lawsuit on behalf of one million users, employees suggested in 2018 that the company stop misleadingly advertising the incognito feature on Google that allegedly allows users to “browse privately” for to prevent others from using a shared device to view search history.
The lawsuit claims that the private browsing option, which features an outline of a mysterious man wearing glasses and a detective hat, is misleading because Google can still see consumer data, according to Bloomberg.
“We need to stop calling it incognito and stop using the Spy Guy icon,” an engineer said in an email chain in 2018 after delivering a study on the browser’s lack of protection.
Another engineer responded with a meme from the Simpsons TV show episode, where a look-alike of Homer Simpson, dubbed ‘Guy Incognito’, was shown identical to the show’s main character, but with a moustache, suit and top hat.
The engineer joked that Guy Incognito’s costume ‘exactly conveys the level of privacy [the browser] gives.’
A judge will decide on Tuesday whether the trial will continue. If found liable, Google could be fined to pay billions to consumers.
Google is facing a lawsuit after consumers suggested the company’s incognito browser isn’t actually private
2018 emails from lawsuit websites’ employees suggesting the company stop falsely advertising the private browsing feature
An employee joked that the Incognito icon should look like Homer Simpson, dubbed Guy Incognito, was shown identical to the show’s main character, but with a mustache, suit and top hat
Google marketing chief Lorraine Twohill sent an email to CEO Sundar Pichai last year on International Data Privacy Day to request that the tech giant become more private, according to Bloomberg.
“Make incognito mode truly private,” Twohill wrote in an email. “We’re limited in how strongly we can market incognito because it’s not really private, and so it requires a really obscure, security language that’s almost more harmful.”
Twohill’s email and other employee documentation are among the court documents that will be reviewed in an Oakland, Calif., courtroom on Tuesday.
Incognito mode on Google announces that other users won’t be able to see browsing history – but doesn’t say the tech giant can’t see data.
“Privacy controls have long been built into our services, and we encourage our teams to constantly discuss or consider ideas to improve them,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
‘Incognito mode provides users with a private browsing experience, and we have been clear about how it works and what it does, while the plaintiffs in this case have intentionally mischaracterized our statements.’
The lawsuit further cites an email sent to CEO Sundar Pichai last year that calls for making the tech giant more private for consumers
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will review the case. If Google is found liable, Google could owe millions of consumers up to $1,000 per violation, according to Bloomberg.
The lawsuit also aims to hold the tech giant responsible for a lack of transparency in the incognito mode setting, which is believed to keep browsing private for users.
The consumers are suggesting that Google change the language of the private browsing feature to make users aware that the tech giant can still collect their data.