U.S. court sanctions Google in privacy case, company's second legal setback in days

A U.S. court has sanctioned Google for a second time in recent days due to the company taking too long to comply with a ruling last year

March 31, 2023 10:13 am | Updated 10:13 am IST

File photo of the Google logo

File photo of the Google logo | Photo Credit: REUTERS

A U.S. court has sanctioned Google LLC for a second time in recent days, after a judge in a decision unsealed on Wednesday said the Alphabet Inc. unit took too long to comply with a ruling last year in a data-privacy class action.

The order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen in San Jose, California, stems from a class action claiming Google unlawfully tracked its users while they were using the company's Chrome browsers in private, or "incognito," mode.

In a separate decision on Tuesday in California, U.S. District Judge James Donato concluded Google had failed to preserve employees' "chat" records as evidence in antitrust litigation. Donato said the plaintiffs' lawyers will be awarded legal fees in an amount to be determined later. Google is challenging the claims.

In the data privacy case, Google has said its Chrome browser users consented to the company's data collection. A Google spokesperson said the company has “provided and disclosed countless documents and discovery."

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The sanction in the data privacy action is not the first time Van Keulen has punished Google in the same case.

The latest ruling said Google failed to comply with a deadline stemming from a court order last year that imposed sanctions on the company. The new sanctions order and the prior one from May 2022 addressed internal Google evidence concerning consumer use of the company's private browsing mode.

Google, according to the judge's order, will be barred from relying on certain employee witnesses in the case. Van Keulen also said Google must pay fees associated with two experts working for the plaintiffs, and must also pay a $79,000 fine.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The consumer plaintiffs are suing for an injunction that could among other things could require Google to delete private browsing information. A trial is scheduled for November.

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